BASALT VISTA: The big picture
Basalt Vista is the first Habitat Roaring Fork project to recognize the Missing Middle gap. Habitat’s mission has historically served families in the lowest income bracket. In 20 years, the nonprofit has built 33 homes for families whose annual household income is approximately $58k or less. Basalt Vista’s qualifying threshold spans annual incomes of almost $58k for a single person, up to almost $120k for six-person households. This target elevated Habitat’s vision, recalling the look and feel of a high-end artfully designed neighborhood.
When the project’s architects Erica and Brian Golden of 27/57 Design Build first walked the land, they noticed how the hillside formed a natural shelf 10 feet higher than the adjacent school buildings. They understood how the eye line from upper floors would bypass the school and neighboring homes. So they positioned living spaces on top with bedrooms on ground level, clearing the way for open, panoramic views from each home.
Suzanne Wheeler-Del Piccolo, Basalt Elementary School principal, called the homes “affordable housing with million dollar views.” Habitat adopted the apropos quip for it’s marketing materials.
AFFORDABLE, ATTAINABLE … and ASPIRATIONAL
The architecture team also imagined a front-porch neighborhood, where homes orient toward the street, as opposed to “backyard” houses with private, enclosed yards. At the same time, they wanted indoor and outdoor privacy, so even with shared walls in duplex and triplex units, you can live without constant awareness of your next-door neighbors. They accomplished this with a “split and shifted” floor plans and home sites that were slightly rotated to create a dynamic streetscape and an individual identity for each home – quite different from what you get when every home on a street is lined up and identical.
“Aspirational design feels more inspiring, welcoming and enjoyable to be part of than what has been the norm for typical so-called affordable housing,” Brian Golden said, sharing an Eames quote that has shaped his career: “We want to make the best for the most for the least.”
Rather than designing bump-out wings that create additional corners, or complex roof lines with dormers and gables – which quickly add to the cost of construction – the Goldens started with simple forms positioned with an eye for visual impact. For example, the shed roofs are created with pre-fab trusses over-lapping off of a central top chord. You get a clean, interesting roof line that can be sheathed in a couple of hours. Exterior details add texture, such as: corrugated metal siding at grade, open-framed porch walls with exposed rafter tails and painted scrim materials. Interior elements include large, efficient windows, wood floors and solid cabinetry.
Efficiency is a cornerstone of the Habitat approach. However, this development begged another question: could Basalt Vista help prove that community-scale net-zero is possible on a budget?
“We saw a perfect combination of adequate sunlight, passive-solar gain, well-performing efficient homes and lots of roof exposure,” Brian Golden explains.
Sunsense Solar, Holycross Energy and CORE joined the team, each bringing their expertise to the mission. The result is the first development on this scale on the Western Slope. Every home is entirely electric, from heat to hot water to appliances. This means that if enough photovoltaic electricity can be generated on site, the homes will have a net-zero footprint. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will monitor the efficiency and energy loads of each of the four completed units. This will help other multi-family developments plan for this scale. Even though these systems cost more upfront, the homes should ultimately be far more affordable for families on a month-to-month basis.
LIVING THE DREAM
The first wave of Basalt Vista homeowners was chosen through a lottery system in October of 2018. These families include teachers at Aspen Elementary, Basalt Elementary, and Basalt Middle School. Plus a couple whose first child was born a few weeks before their move-in date. And a single mother with two teenage daughters.
The Bravo-Moran family received their first electric bill for a total of $10, including set up fees. Delighted by this savings, they traded in their car for a hybrid electric. They plug it into the solar car charging station built into their home’s carport. “Protecting the environment is important to us,” says Basalt Elementary School teacher Jair Bravo. “We teach this to our students, and now we get to be live the solution every day in our home.”
Even the stairwells at Basalt Vista feel light-filled and grand, with plenty of room for displaying this eleven-year-old’s artwork. The design focussed on maximum living in a minimal footprint, so details make a big difference. Hardwood floors, high end cabinetry, and a pallet of lighting options give each residence a unique character.
“Our happiness is as big as our gratitude,” says Katela Moran. She, along with her husband Jair Bravo and their eleven-year-old son were the first family to move in. “Our home was built with so much love. I can feel the energy every time I step inside.”
about architects Brian and Erica Golden at 27/57 Design + Build