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Green architecture – Solera apartments, Denver

By Damir Beciri
13 December 2010

solera-1Solera, at 1956 Lawrence St., is projected to be the first LEED Gold Certified multi-family building in the Rocky Mountain Region. It is currently first of its kind in downtown Denver. Designed by Zocalo Community Development, the 11-story Solera has 120 units and almost 511 square meters (5,500 square-feet) of retail space in walking distance to the heart of downtown. The building is projected to be 50% more energy efficient than an ordinary building-code compliant building.

During construction, nearly 75% of the construction waste was recycled, and at least 10% recycled content in other building materials. It has a substantial roof-mounted solar photovoltaic system and a Solar Renter Program that enables the residents to power their apartment from the power generated on the roof. Advanced white “TPO” membrane is located on the roof in order to reduce the building’s heat island effect and keep the top floor units cooler than those in a typical apartment building.

Solera’s water is heated by a 99% efficient water boiler. Low-e, Argon-filled windows ensure better insulation, while the used R-21 blown-in cellulose insulation (made of recycled newspaper) is safe and environmentally friendly. A combination of LED and compact fluorescent lighting, and the use of lighting sensors and motion sensors throughout common and parking areas increase safety and lower the energy consumption. Programmable thermostats allow further savings in energy consumption while the occupants are away, and can adjust the temperature while the space is occupied.

All homes have dual-flush toilets, high-performance, water-saving fixtures and high-efficiency, front-loading clothes washers that combine to save more than 35% of water compared to a like-size building. Due to Colorado’s restrictive water laws that outlaw the use of rainwater or “greywater” recycling, Solera has partnered with Denver Water to water the property’s trees. Denver Water will allow Solera to obtain recycled water from its operations that are stored in an elevated on-site water tank and gravity fed to irrigate trees throughout the year thereby using no potable water for irrigation.

Solera was designed and built with a commitment to better indoor air quality. It is a 100 percent smoke-free environment, where smoking is not permitted in the apartments or the common areas. All wood products in the building have no added urea-formaldehyde, which was identified as a cause of ill health effects including asthma. Low-volatile organic compound materials were selected to protect the indoor air quality of the building. Though typically more expensive, the paints, carpets, sealants, adhesives, molding and cabinetry were painstakingly selected to ensure lower VOC’s.

Personal Energy Monitor in apartments offers a real-time power usage display that tracks day-to-day and monthly energy use, allowing you to make smarter, more economic energy decisions. The apartments are equipped with Energy-Star appliances and front-loading clothes washers and dryers.

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