Awards Recap

We are pleased to honor the 3rd annual, 2021 Energy Warriors! The Energy Warrior Awards were established during CORE’s 25th anniversary to recognize people in the community who have a large impact on the energy world and climate. These 6 individuals go above and beyond, and their contributions have a ripple effect, inspiring others to take action and join the charge! The 2021 award recipients are: Jeff Dickinson (Lifetime Achievement), Andrew Wickes (Homeowner), Rich Backe (Professional – Community), Chris Caskey (Professional – Innovation), TACAW (Business), and Connor Hoffman (People’s Choice).

Jeff Dickinson – Lifetime Achievement Award

Jeff Dickinson is an architect, but when he got started, terms like sustainable design and net zero building were nonexistent. It was the ’70s, and people were just starting to look at the environment as something that should be cared for and appreciated. With the first Earth Day and all of the buzz around it, an environmental focus was in the air, and Jeff breathed it in. Not to mention, he had some inspirational teachers that opened his eyes to solar and energy efficiency. He got his masters in Environmental Planning with a specialty in solar, which led to exploring how buildings can impact the planet and our carbon footprint.

Now, Jeff is the owner of Energy and Sustainable Design Inc., a firm that specializes in “energy efficiency, sustainability, resource efficiency, eco-design, and straw-bale construction”. He has worked on projects such as 3rd Street Center, the Marble Distillery, and the Waldorf School (one of the 1st sustainable building projects in the valley). At the Waldorf School, he used straw bales to insulate efficiently, thinking outside the box on how to use natural, renewable resources. For Jeff, it is the quality of his projects over the quantity, and many are now used as examples that can educate people on what is possible, not to mention have gotten national recognition. His work has a ripple effect, and he says it helps when he gets to work with people who want to break the mold and get things done, like Connie Baker and Carey Shanks at Marble Distillery.

Jeff looks to the environment for answers and inspiration, and knows we need to work alongside nature instead of against it. Thank you Jeff for all of the great work you do in the valley! We are honored to present you the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Andrew Wickes – Homeowner of the Year

Andrew was born and raised in Aspen and has always been aware of his carbon footprint and the importance of considering the environment when making decisions. He is a volunteer on the Town of Snowmass Village Environmental Advisory Board and helped them adopt the Race to Zero, aiming to cut carbon emissions by 62.5% by 2030. Since being on the board, he realized that “the more you know the more you need to do something about it. It is our duty to do the right thing”. So when it came to building a home, he knew he wanted an energy efficient design and that “the technology and capabilities exist”. With a lot of planning, research, and then a grant from CORE and Holy Cross Energy for solar panels and battery storage, he was able to achieve his net zero dream home. This 1,000 sq. ft home is on his parents property as an ADU, and his home produces enough solar energy to power his space and offset some of his parents electricity bill! Andrew recommends that “people with land connect with young people, and give them a chance to do what [he] did”, which could achieve both the housing and climate goals of the valley.
Andrew talks the talk and walks the walk and for that CORE is honored to present him this award!

Rich Backe – Professional of the Year: Community

Rich is the owner of Building Performance Contractors, Energy Efficiency Solutions, and his mission is to reduce energy consumption in the built environment. He does the work that CORE preaches- energy efficiency, net zero design, consulting, energy audits, and weatherization. He works on residential and commercial properties and does repairs and retrofits as well as new construction. His goal is to save people money on their utility bills, make their spaces more comfortable and healthy, and lower carbon emissions. Although, lowering emissions was not on his mind until he attended a seminar with the City of Aspen in 2008 and then his eyes were open to this problem. “We will not be able to meet our climate action goals without reducing energy use in homes” says Rich. “It does not make sense to throw solar panels on a home that is consuming loads of energy, it makes more sense to cut the energy usage first. Renewables need to go hand in hand with energy consumption.” He has worked on very important projects throughout the valley, including Town of Snowmass Village Town Hall & Recreation Center, the Aspen Art Museum, and Glenwood Springs City Hall. He is also responsible for adding more affordable net-zero homes in the valley.

His motto, “saving the planet one building at a time”, and for that, we are honored to present you this award. Thank you!

Chris Caskey – Professional of the Year: Innovation

Chris Caskey is dedicated to finding creative solutions to combat climate change. For this Energy Warrior, problems are an opportunity and he takes challenges head on to find inventive solutions. He started as an academic chemist and worked at the School of MINES as a professor. His focus was on chemistry and material science as it relates to renewable energy and climate change. Then, he joined the board of the Western Slope Conservation Center and recognized clay sediment was building up in the Paonia Reservoir, affecting farming and irrigation in the region. Chris, looking for a solution, decided to start the Delta Brick & Climate Company that makes bricks and building materials out of this sediment, which has restored the storage capacity. Being in this area, he was drawn to the Coal Basin Mine because it is one of the gassiest mines in the U.S, emitting more methane than all human activity in Pitkin County. He teamed up with CORE and other stakeholders, to come up with a plan to capture the escaping methane. There is still a long way to go in this process, but it will serve as an example for other abandoned mines to follow.

He wanted to recognize the importance of community dialog and stakeholder work to make real change happen, and we want to recognize you, Chris, for your contribution to the energy world!

TACAW – Business of the Year

TACAW Performing Arts Center breaks the mold with its innovative design, and to Ryan Honey, the Executive Director of TACAW, building with the consideration for sustainability, the environment, and the climate was the only option. At first it was just a dream space, but as he sat down with architects from Lipkin Warner, he realized this could be a reality. “All of the technology and capabilities are there, it’s just putting the time and money into making something great” says Ryan, and it’s definitely paid off. They made the space energy efficient and all electric by installing induction stoves in the kitchen, LEDs, and electric heating and cooling. TACAW received the CORE Randy Udall grant as well as other funding for the 64 kilowatt solar array which allows them to function at or near net zero through the year. Now, they hardly have a utility bill! Battery storage is next on the list, and is set to happen this spring. But it doesn’t stop there, this space will now be used for educational purposes and they already have a lineup of concerts this winter. Ryan is planning to schedule induction cooking demonstrations with professional chefs, and down the road he is considering a net zero concert tour using electric buses to bring artists from the front range.
Way to go TACAW! CORE is honored to recognize you as Business of the Year Award!

Connor Hoffman – People’s Choice Award

Connor Hoffman was nominated by 2 different people and then got the majority of votes for the People’s Choice Award. This Energy Warrior is an incredibly impressive Junior at Basalt High School and is an advocate for clean energy, the environment, and climate change. At an early age, Connor wanted to be an inventor and engineer, and liked to know how things worked. Once he was introduced to Tesla, that sparked his interest in the world of energy and electricity and he dreamt of converting a gas vehicle into electric. His dad, who works for Aspen Ski Co and loves to snowmobile, suggested they convert a snowmobile instead, which “was done in response to the lack of industry models and as a prototype”, says one of the nominators. With more free time during the pandemic, they made this dream a reality, and after a few final touches, the electric snowmobile will be used on Snowmass Mountain. Connor is also a member of the Environmental Club at Basalt High School, and they are working to fix the recycling program and add a composting program. He advocated for the passing of 3A in Basalt to fund green initiatives such as solar and wrote a letter to the editor that stated, “[solar] will help our community to further shift away from fossil fuels, produce energy close to our homes and build a more resilient power grid.” Since 3A was passed, his next mission is to get that solar on the school roof, and to get EV chargers in the staff parking lot powered by the solar.

Connor has big plans for the future, and hopes to go to Stanford to pursue a degree in science and technology. We are honored to present Connor with the People’s Choice Energy Warrior Award and cannot wait to see what he does next!

A huge thank you to all of our Energy Warriors and to all of the people who participated in nominating and voting for the People’s Choice Awards!