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Green Party: A Sustainable Agenda and Luxurious Design Can Coexist

Green Party: A Sustainable Agenda and Luxurious Design Can Coexist

PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID O. MARLOW

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From the moment Amanda Precourt purchased a nearly 5.3-acre Vail Valley property, she had a strong vision of what she wanted her house to look like, and it wasn’t the dated ranch that occupied the site. “I envisioned a contemporary retreat that undulated along Lake Creek,” she says. To help her realize that vision, Precourt, who has a master’s degree in real estate and construction management, called on architect Jim Morter to create a structure that engaged its natural surroundings and views of New York Mountain.

To design the house, Morter, working in collaboration with Precourt and on-site project architect and consultant Pavan Krueger of Krueger Architecture & Design, took cues from the land. “With so many mature trees, rather than create one big blockbuster building in the middle of everything, we broke the home down into smaller pieces and allowed it to weave through the trees,” says Morter, who also took advantage of every indoor/outdoor opportunity he could. “There’s a south-facing terrace for the mountain views and a deck oriented to the creek; the site really dictated things.” 

But not everything. Also paramount to the project was Precourt’s determination to build an environmentally conscious home that would ultimately garner LEED Gold certification. “My goal was to prove it’s possible to build responsibly without sacrificing luxury or beauty,” says Precourt, who enlisted her entire design team in the LEED point pursuit.

“Every decision we made was guided by LEED,” says Morter, who incor- porated solar panels, a solar thermal system for domestic hot water and FSC-certified framing materials into the stone, wood and metal structure. Meanwhile, the builders, project manager Brent Rimel and superintendent Danny Aldaz, handled recycling and proper waste disposal, and they supplied the green consultant, Megan Gilman of Active Energies, with all of the pertinent information. “Probably the biggest construction hurdle was educating the subcontractors on the paperwork and the third-party credentials needed from them for the LEED process,” says Rimel.

For her part, landscape architect Sherry Dorward crafted a drought- tolerant landscape totally devoid of water-sucking blue grass. “Almost 25 percent of the points for the whole project were related to the landscape,” says Dorward, who claims the efficient irrigation system and the selection of native plants, coupled with leaving a large part of the natural environment undisturbed, were key contributors.

According to Krueger, who supplied all of the architectural technical drawings, Precourt handpicked her team based on chemistry above all. “The end result was an effective group with a really good rapport,” she says. “The project actually received a LEED credit for having the team assembled from the beginning. When options for making the project sustainable are discussed early on, and there is regular communication, there is a higher likelihood that they will be brought to fruition.”

Precourt also took charge of the interior design and filled her new home with a mix of Asian pieces, contemporary designs, antiques and consignment store finds. “I didn’t necessarily use things like green fabrics, but I tried to incorporate antiques and recycled pieces as much as possible,” says the homeowner, who has platters made from recycled street signs and a side table fabricated from old bicycle parts.

Central to the home’s layout is a two-sided fireplace composed of the same Oklahoma brownstone and Colorado buff flagstone as the exterior walls. It intentionally separates the casual family room, which opens to the kitchen, from the more formal living room. Interior finishes such as integral plaster walls enhance the spaces, and Precourt turned to interior designer Maggie Tandysh of Associates III to find the best-looking sustainable materials.

“Increased awareness among suppliers and manufacturers has made finding merchandise that is both environmentally minded and beautifully designed much easier,” says Tandysh, who chose limestone for the master bathroom floor, recycled glass and stone tiles for the shower, and low-VOC grout for all. “I delight in melding sustainable design with pure aesthetics.”

Precourt is thrilled to have achieved her goal of blending good looks with responsible design. “I wanted to set an example for people building high-end homes that they can still go green, and I did,” she says. “It’s a beautiful, soothing, organic retreat.”

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