Tamarack’s Cabin #11. (Photo: Geisel)
By Ron Cohen
Environmental stewardship has permeated the world around us in any number of ways. From whisper-quiet hybrid vehicles to those annoyingly loud, but Earth-friendly compostable potato chip bags, environmentally friendly methods and materials impact nearly every aspect of our lives. So, it should come as no great surprise that environmentally-friendly processes and materials are working their way into the crafting of Mammoth Lakes’ vacation homes and resort cabins.
In the case of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s Altis development and Tamarack Cabin #11, the systematic use of such materials and processes has garnered the first and only Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certifications in Mono County: Gold for Altis and the coveted Platinum for Tamarack Cabin #11.
LEED, the internationally recognized green building certification system, provides quantifiable verification that a building was designed and constructed using materials and methods that emphasize energy savings, water efficiency, reduced CO2emissions, improved indoor environmental quality and resource stewardship. Building materials, systems and construction processes are assigned points, and the completed building is rated as either Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum.
MMSA skipped right past the gold and obtained Platinum certification of its first LEED-designed building, the three-bedroom, two-bath 1,336 square foot Tamarack Cabin #11 at Tamarack Lodge. Cabin 11 is an Energy Star-certified home (91.4 points or 5 stars +), and obtained an “Exceptional Energy Performance” rating by exceeding California’s Title 24, Chapter 11 requirement. Title 24 was established to reduce construction waste, make buildings more efficient in the use of materials and energy, and reduce environmental impact during and after construction. The original 2008 code was only voluntary, but the requirements become mandatory for all new California construction as of January 2011. Cabin 11 exceeded Title 24’s already high standards by more than 30 percent.
Among the many green features included in Cabin 11 is the hot water recirculation system, which is in fact a very simple idea that uses equally simple and inexpensive technology. In the days before resource conservation, people would frequently turn on the hot water faucet then leave the room to wait while heated water traveled from the water heater to the point of use, sending up to 10 gallons of perfectly good water down the drain. With the system installed in Cabin 11, a small pump is activated which diverts the cold water that is sitting in the hot water line into the cold water line, and eventually back to the water heater. A sensor automatically shuts off the pump and closes the zone valve when hot water arrives, sending the hot water to the tap. This technology can be adapted into just about any home with minimal expense.
Another green feature was the use of high-recycled content (90% minimum) nylon fiber carpet, manufactured by Irvine-based PacifiCrest. The company employs so many green-manufacturing techniques that it won an award for its use of reclaimed water in the manufacturing process, and was named a Clean Air Partner by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, one of the toughest regulatory bodies in the entire country. One might expect nothing less from a company that named itself after the Pacific Crest Trail that meanders through our local mountains. This is yet another example of a green building product that can be applied to your home or condo when you next need new carpet.
LEED isn’t just about green systems and technology; it’s also about green processes, particularly during the construction phase. In the case of Cabin 11, despite constructing the entire cabin from the ground up, the waste generated during the construction project totaled just 14.3 cubic yards — less than half the size of a standard construction dumpster.
Fresh from its success in building Cabin 11, MMSA’s next construction project was the first phase of Altis, a luxury townhome development in the Greyhawk neighborhood. Altis was awarded LEED Gold certification, and quickly sold three of the four units in the first phase (one is still available!).Innovative features of Altis include drought tolerant native plant landscaping, extensive erosion prevention, water conservation, and high efficiency household systems.
Like Cabin 11, Altis townhomes are Energy Star Qualified (92 points or 5 stars +). All appliances are Energy Star rated, and dual flush toilets provide an average flow rate of 1.25 gallons per flush. During construction, MMSA avoided waste by making a detailed cut list and lumber order prior to construction, with materials orders pre-measured down to one-half inch, making for efficient waste-free framing. MMSA also purchased panels from offsite fabricators, who shipped the panels to the site ready for installation. All drywall product contents and all concrete products were extracted, processed and manufactured within 500 miles of the site. Only Forest Stewardship Council Certified tropical hardwood was utilized.
Altis’ construction also provides an environmentally friendly and healthy living space. For example, the building envelope was sealed with an insulating foam sealant that had a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) content of 0.0 g/L (grams/Liter). LEED’s minimum criteria: 50 g/L. Heat recovery ventilators (HRV) improve air quality and provide balanced ventilation and efficient operation. HRV brings in fresh outdoor air and drawing it through an aluminum core, where it is heated by outgoing stale air. The fresh heated air is then distributed. Air filter boxes, which exceed LEED standards, scrub the outside air before it is delivered to the home, reducing the level of suspended particles. Even the bathroom fans are on timers to prevent heat from being purged through exhaust vents.
MMSA has led the way with LEED certified construction in Mammoth Lakes. Breaking ground is important, as it challenges others to live up to the same standard. Although construction has slowed in the area, MMSA is now being followed by the Mono County courthouse project, which is targeting LEED Silver Certification. As construction picks back up, Mammoth Mountain hopes to add more footsteps, both its own and others, to the LEED trail it has already blazed. Cabin 11 and Altis are tanglible, working examples of the Ski Area’s commitment to Sustainable Development, one of the four principles of the company’s Environmental Policy Statement.
Learn more about MMSA’s Environmental Program, book a stay at Tamarack Cabin 11, or arrange to tour the remaining available Altis unit, and more at www.mammothmountain.com.
Ron Cohen is Director, Government Relations and Environmental Affairs at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.