Walking Mountains’ campus design inspires and teaches by showcasing the latest technologies in sustainable building and design. By using innovative systems such as an efficient building envelope, passive and active solar, ground source heat pumps, to vegetated roofs and sustainable building materials, we became the first science center in CO to achieve LEED Platinum Certification.

In fact, many of the components even go above and beyond LEED certification.  Our three buildings consume only half the energy of a typical school building.

Straw Bale Construction at Walking Mountains Science CenterA Glimpse at our Energy Saving Features:

Air tight building seal with high levels of air flow control ventilation
This includes high efficiency warming and cooling as air flows through the building.

Thermal Cavity Insulation
The exterior walls are double stud construction to allow a large cavity for thermal insulation.  The depth of the exterior wall cavity is approximately 10”, and allows for the first four inches of the wall to be filled with polyurethane spray foam.  The polyurethane will provide thermal properties, as well as provide a moisture and air barrier from the exterior elements.  The remaining depth of the exterior wall cavity is filled with cellulose insulation.  Cellulose insulation provides additional thermal properties, and is a very environmentally friendly material –it is made from recycled newsprint and other paper sources that might have ended up in a landfill.  Both the Polyurethane and Cellulose insulation are neat construction materials to utilize – since they both have virtually no waste during installation.

Double paned windows with suspended film
The project utilizes what might be the most energy efficient windows on the market today.  It was important to complement the high performance wall cavity assembly with as high performing windows as possible – as it fundamentally doesn’t make much sense to spend time and energy putting 10” of insulation into a wall cavity, only to have large openings of poor performing windows in the same system.  The windows selected by the team are made by Serious Materials.  These windows are constructed of fiberglass, and the glazing system utilizes double pane exterior glass, with 2 additional internal ‘thermal cavities’ of suspended film in the window assembly.  The windows then are injected with inert gas inside the spaces (in this case – Krypton gas) to provide even greater thermal benefit.  Ultimately, testing has been done to show that the performance of the windows selected for this project should perform more than 50% greater than a standard triple pane / low E window.

Straw bale walls
Straw bale wall construction was utilized in several of the perimeter walls of the FSBC building.  Straw Bale construction has been around for a long time, but is not utilized too extensively in the Vail Valley, and the project wanted to showcase the capabilities of Straw Bale construction.  Building with straw utilizes constructing with a ‘renewable’ product, provides good insulating performance, provides sound deadening capabilities, and is well suited to our (fairly) dry climate.

Highly insulated roof / ceiling cavity.
The roof assembly for both the MDC (Mountain Discovery Center) and FSBC (Field Studies Base Camp) buildings consists of 14” of cellulose insulation in the joist spacing, and 4 ½” PolyIso insulation above the roof.  This roof assembly will net an R value around 75, and is vital in completing the thermal efficiency of the building envelope.

Walking Mountains received the Governor’s Energy Office High Performance Building Design Grant last year which helped to cover the cost of materials that were used to create the high performance building envelope.  “We hope that this school becomes a model for others throughout the state to incorporate similar sustainable building strategies”, says Doug Dusenberry, Former Capital Campaign Director for Walking Mountains Science Center.