Brasada Ranch follows green-building craze

Resort plans to continue energy-efficient development

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: April 30. 2007 5:00AM PST

POWELL BUTTE – With its red paint and wide beams, the sales building at Crook County destination resort Brasada Ranch looks like a carefully renovated, decades-old barn.

“We had some of the locals come along and say, ‘Wow, you guys did a great job restoring that barn,'” said Rick Pare, construction coordinator for Brasada Ranch.

“That’s a pretty good compliment.”

Pare, who is the leader of the “green team” for construction at the resort, said the “barn” was built from the ground up in 2005 with an eye toward eco-friendly features.

Fifty percent of the wood used in construction, including the vaulted ceiling beams, was reclaimed from the old Ochoco Lumber Co. mill, and it achieved gold certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green-building standards.

As energy- and water-efficient houses built with local materials become increasingly common in new subdivisions, the incoming destination resorts in Crook County are also catching on to the trend.

And the Crook County Planning Department is encouraging applicants to incorporate more eco-friendly features into their developments.

Brasada Ranch was the first destination resort approved for Crook County, and it has plans for 600 single-family houses and 300 overnight rental units on its roughly 1,800-acre site.

At Brasada Ranch, Pare said, green building is motivated by a philosophy to “walk softly in the land.”

All of the heating and cooling in the main buildings comes through a looped tube system in small nearby lakes, which means that it costs about one-quarter to one-third of a conventional structure’s energy bill to run the building. The swimming pools will be entirely heated by solar panels.

Pare added that the resort’s designers have tried to be sensitive to the natural landscape. The golf course lies in existing ravines, and the builders are replanting native brush grass and sagebrush in areas that had to be cleared for construction.

“You can see where we didn’t disturb down below and where we have re-established up here,” Pare said, pointing to a patch of earth dotted with small plantings that border larger sagebrushes and shrubs. “Within a year or so, it will all look like one again.”

In addition to its main buildings, the rental cabins at Brasada Ranch are all Energy Star and Earth Advantage certified, meaning that the appliances and houses are energy efficient. The private residences are also required to meet those standards.

The high environmental benchmarks are attractive to buyers, Pare said.

“There’s people that have come here just because of this,” he said. “Green-building practice in this industry is like springtime – (it’s) blooming right now.”

Chris Pippin, the project manager for Remington Ranch, a recently approved destination resort in Powell Butte, said the developers’ specific design plans have not been set, but they are “trying to be respectful of the native habitat and the natural vegetation.”

Pippin said it seems that environmental building practices are increasingly common in the industry.

“I know it’s a growing issue in residential development around the country and maybe even more so in the home construction business,” he said. “That’s something that’s been a hot thing.”

Remington Ranch could eventually include 800 houses and 400 rental units.

IronHorse, a mixed-use subdivision planned for Prineville, is not a destination resort, but it is of a similarly large scale. The developers’ plans call for more than 2,900 housing units on 1,100 acres.

Project Manager Randy Jones said that IronHorse will require all homeowners to follow the Earth Advantage Program, making homes well insulated and energy efficient. They will also install WeatherTRAK technology, which conserves water that would be used for irrigation. Jones said that the WeatherTRAK system would initially cost about $350 – versus $60 to $70 for a traditional sprinkler timer – but the owners would make the money back within one to two years.

“The vast majority of buyers in the country these days really do desire, if they can afford it, to buy green (and) to have their energy-efficient and conservation-oriented homes,” Jones said. “So the trick is to provide value to these home buyers and, again, this is not expensive technology.”

He added that the WeatherTRAK system could save more than 130 million gallons of water a year from IronHorse.

Although Crook County does not have specific environmental requirements for new developments, Planning Director Bill Zelenka said such features could make the applications more attractive to the county, especially with destination resorts.

For example, he noted that the Planning Commission worked with Brasada Ranch to establish guidelines about nonreflective windows and low-scale lights that would make the project less intrusive.

“I think it’s a good selling feature, not only when they’re marketing it, but it’s probably a selling feature to the various agencies,” Zelenka said. “So, if they need to get sign offs like from (Oregon Department of) Fish and Wildlife or from (Bureau of Land Management) or other people like that, it’s smart to just initiate some of that stuff upfront.”

While the lowered cost of upfront investment and attractiveness to home buyers makes green building more practical, Pare said his “passion” for the topic is based on principle.

“Bottom line, very simple, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

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