A Family Runs Through It

Nathan Garfield and family at their Brush Creek home. PC: Michele Cardamone

Nathan Garfield is a family man; anyone who meets him will recognize a proud husband and father (to Christy and Clementine, respectively). Scratch the surface of this contractor’s home-building project and it’s easy to see that family — three generations of it — runs through the entire job site.

The lineage started when Nathan was a child. Born in Maine and growing up with a diverse family unit (think: parental remarriages), Nathan had four parents, three of whom were oceanographers. These adults dealt with climate change everyday at work, which meant that science, including energy efficiency, made regular appearances at the dinner table. “The environment has always been important to us as a family,” said Nathan. 

Design Ethos #1:
Make it as efficient as possible (aka: Thanks, Moms and Dads)

So when it came time to create their own space, he and his wife had a clear “vision to go with energy efficiency.” They moved into Christy’s childhood home, a house her father had constructed in the mid-70s, in part by moving a building from the heart of Aspen to a south-facing hillside in Brush Creek. The passive-solar design was innovative for its era, but by the time Nathan and Christy were imagining remodeling the home, not all the leading-edge features had stood the test of time. A forced-air gas furnace with no ducting, asbestos in the drywall, and an upstairs with too much solar gain were just some of the issues they had to tackle to bring this family home into the 21st century.

Fortunately, Nathan was able to lean on CORE for support. He accessed CORE’s rebates and technical assistance to advance the project and work through solutions. “CORE’s free advising was super helpful: talking through complicated issues, bouncing ideas, and learning,” he said. “I wish I had gotten involved with them earlier!”

Design Ethos #2:
Design a better housing model (aka: Take Care of Elders)

Add to the mix that Nathan had three generations to consider. Five years earlier, the couple had made the decision to move into the home with Christy’s mom, Rita Hunter, with the idea of transforming the 2,400-square-foot house into a family compound so that they could take care of her as she aged. They were already well into the planning and permitting of an apartment over the garage when their project was quickly accelerated by a health diagnosis for Rita. They did an about face to adapt to a new situation: living together in one building and increasing the mobility and potential wheelchair access of the space. “It’s a better housing model, having all of us living under one roof,” referring not just to his family, but to the larger benefits for the environment and society as a whole.

All of this drove the project deeper into energy efficiency. To make the upstairs habitable for his mother-in-law, Nathan started with air sealing and insulation, which took his ceiling R-values from R30 to R49 and the space from overheated to temperate. To solve the HVAC conundrum, Nathan chose a ductless mini-split heat pump to heat and cool the upstairs. This was a double-win, allowing a fuel switch (from natural gas to electricity) and avoiding the unnecessary expense and space of ductwork. To accommodate the heat pump (plus future solar panels and electric-vehicle charging), he upgraded his electrical panel from 100 to 400 amps, which also made replacing old-school lighting fixtures with LEDs possible. 

For their efforts, they received $4,000 in rebates from CORE and $1,800 from their electric utility, Holy Cross Energy. While Nathan’s family hasn’t even spent a full year in the house, they are already seeing reduced utility bills, which is remarkable given that they’ve gone from single-occupancy to a four-person household. 

Design Ethos #3:
Repurpose the building (aka Take Care of the Next Generation) 

Given all the challenges of the site, it might have been easier to tear down the home and start from scratch. But that wasn’t even a consideration for Nathan. “Repurposing the building makes sense,” he said. “And it’s not filling up the landfill.”

That kind of long-range vision has its own immediate rewards. Three generations of Garfield-Hunters get to live together, creating a very special bond, especially between grandmother and granddaughter. 

By honoring the past, Nathan is taking care of the future. He can rest easy knowing his daughter will grow up in the same house his wife did and his mother-in-law will spend her final years in the home she built with her family. There’s even space for a long-term dream of his own: the couple are looking down the road to their own retirement under the same roof. “There’s just some good history to this house.” 

Are you ready to create a healthy, comfortable, carbon-free space? Reach out to one of our energy advisors today by email or phone: (970) 925-9775. CORE’s Path to Zero is a roadmap that makes big reductions in energy use simple. Whether you are well on your way like the Garfields, or just need to know where to start, we’re here to help with free energy advising, incentives and resources.

By |2020-07-08T16:48:50-06:00June 30th, 2020|Blog Feed|

About the Author:

Lara Whitley is the Director of Brand + Creative Strategy at CORE. She loves using creativity as a lever for social change and helping readers connect the dots between personal action and collective impact — all in the name of protecting our shared Rocky Mountain “backyard," where she loves to bike, hike and ski with her family.