Developer hopes earth-friendly flagship home has big impact

Sebastian de Atucha has faith that he's not the only one who thinks green is the future of homebuilding.

The Denver developer is building a $1.1 million testament to that belief in the Mayfair neighborhood, a cutting-edge speculative home designed with the environment in mind.

"We're pushing the envelope for a spec home in Denver pretty far," de Atucha said. "This is our flagship house. We want to learn as much as we can and, yes, make a little bit of a splash."

The house will be finished in April.

A 1950s ranch home was removed from the 10,900-square-foot lot to make room for the new home, which will feature 3,917 square feet of finished space.

De Atucha's wife, an interior decorator, and his brother-in-law, an architect, were freelancing about a year ago when they decided to join forces with him to form 3BY. Until then, de Atucha's only other experience with homebuilding was renovating a historic home in Boulder.

"With this new company," he said, "we wanted to ask ourselves what we could build in new construction without all those constraints. The answer was green building."

They got started by attending the Greenbuild International Conference, an expo put on each year by the U.S. Green Building Council.

"We went on a research expedition to help us decide who we wanted to be, and we were all really moved and inspired by green building," de Atucha said. "It crystallized for us that there really is no other way to build a new house."

The house under construction at 727 Forest St. is the result of this commitment. All the company's design decisions represent sensitivity to the home's long-term impact on the environment, including:

A below-grade garage that preserves the backyard as a landscaped space.

A fresh-air ventilation heat-recovery system, which is designed to meet stringent indoor air-quality standards.

High-efficiency irrigation system and plumbing fixtures.

Photovoltaic panels that generate enough power to offset 50 percent of the home's electricity load.

Although houses can't yet earn the designation, this one will meet requirements for the U.S. Green Building Council's commercial Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver certification.

Built Green Colorado is the nation's largest green-building program, with more than 100 builder members across the state, 45 sponsor members and eight members of the Built Green Industry Leaders group. Introduced in 1995, the program was created through the joint efforts of the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver, the Governor's Office of Energy Management and Conservation, Xcel Energy and E-Star Colorado.

The purpose of Built Green Colorado, a voluntary program, is to encourage homebuilders to use technologies, products and practices that will provide greater energy efficiency and reduce pollution, provide healthier indoor air, reduce water usage, preserve natural resources and improve durability and reduce maintenance.

3BY's house will be certified to Tier III, Built Green Colorado's highest level.

De Atucha concedes that building green is more expensive, but he estimates that green features added less than 5 percent to this home's construction costs.

"They were more expensive because they were just a lot better," he said.

The most costly initial expenditure was for the solar electric panels.

"Here's an item that wouldn't even be in the budget, and it added $35,000 to ours," he said. "While it's a significant cost upfront, it will be a huge positive for the homeowner down the road."

3BY will receive a $10,000 credit from the federal government and a $16,000 credit from Xcel Energy for the panels. The homebuyer will save almost $1,500 a year on energy as a result of the solar panels and the home's efficient design.

De Atucha has faith there's a homebuyer who shares 3BY's long-term vision.

``We believe there are people who want to do the right thing for the health of their family and the environment, and we've built a house for them,'' he said. Building a green home

The U.S. Green Building Council offers the following tips for turning a home green:

Choose Energy Star appliances.

Energy Star-qualified products are energy-efficient enough to save you money on electric bills.

Use low-VOC products.

Improve your indoor-air quality by switching to products that don't give off "volatile organic compounds."

Low-VOC paint is available from most major paint brands.

Use wood alternatives or Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood products.

Consider using environmentally preferable and rapidly renewable products such as linoleum, bamboo, recycled- content tile and non-VOC carpet.

Choose wood products from sustainably managed forests, such as those certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Use rapidly renewable flooring materials.

Affordable, durable and rich-looking flooring can now be made from grasses and trees that mature in roughly half the time it takes hardwoods to reach market size.

Bamboo, cork and eucalyptus flooring products are sustainable alternatives to traditional hardwoods.

Plant trees to provide shade and wind protection for your house.

Save money on heating and air-conditioning bills while providing beautiful views around your home.

For more information about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes, visit the website

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