When CORE staff arrived on site at the Aspen Historical Society (AHS) to evaluate the energy performance of the nonprofit’s carriage house, large portions of the attic insulation were outright missing. “I could see bare wood on the attic walls, with totally inadequate insulation on the floors,” said Marty Treadway, CORE’s Program Director.

This was but one symptom of the ailing facility — along with single-pane windows, air leaks, old-school lighting, and radon — that resulted in recommendations from CORE for a comprehensive energy efficiency overhaul. The ambitious remedies that the Historical Society undertook — designed by Forum Phi Architecture, built by G.F. Woods Construction, and funded in part by $20,000 in Community Grants from CORE — will take the archive building into the next century, preserving not only Aspen’s past, but also ensuring a healthy future for its collections and its employees.

Originally constructed in 1976 to house a historic water wagon and exhibits for the adjacent Wheeler / Stallard Museum, by 2016 the 3,200-square foot, three-level carriage house was serving neither its collections nor its staff particularly well. The two were intermingled throughout the leaky building, from the basement to the attic. This exposed the collections to potential contamination by the humans who tend them (think: dust, UV light, temperature fluctuations, food that attracts critters – all enemies of archives), and exposed the employees to potential contamination by radon that was discovered in the lower level.

By separating the staff from “the stuff,” they were able to more than double the storage capacity, increasing the Historical Society’s ability to take in collections for the next 20 years. In the process, they brought the basement up to the best practices for museum archiving and, after radon mitigation and energy efficiency upgrades, optimized the health conditions in the workspaces.

“It’s better for you and better for the collections,” says AHS archivist Anna Scott.

Concurrent with these spatial improvements were the energy enhancements. The build team sealed leaking window frames in the attic and rim joists in the unfinished basement, bumping up the building envelope’s air tightness by 25%. Fiberglass batt insulation was uniformly installed, along with three inches of spray foam insulation in the hard-to-reach nooks, resulting in an R-value improvement from virtually zero to 49. Twelve windows were swapped out with high-performance .28 U-factor models, vaulting the functionality of the glazing by 65%. Efficient LED lights replaced a mix of incandescent and CFL bulbs throughout the building.  Zoned thermostats were installed so that the basement archives — suited to the constant 60-degree, 30% relative humidity of underground — can stay cool, while the “people areas” above can stay comfortable.

A big bonus for the staff is the day lighting and fresh air that resulted from escaping from the basement where the archives are housed. “It’s amazingly bright,” says Scott, “and now that we’re separated from collections, we have more flexibility to open windows.” Both features give them the ability to adjust the workspace comfort without using much energy. The tighter building and enhanced insulation mean they don’t have to use a lot of heat, and when they do, warming (and cooling) to the right temperature happens quickly.

As the team wraps up construction this month, they will begin tracking their energy savings.

CORE’s Community Grants were a cornerstone to the project’s energy efficiency improvements. “In the Aspen scheme of things, $20K isn’t much,” said AHS president Kelly Murphy. “But for us it was huge.”

We’ll raise a glass to that. You can too at the Historical Society’s Grand Opening Celebration of the archive building on July 14. Details at www.aspenhistory.org.

Did You Know?
CORE annually awards more than $600,000 in grants for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the Roaring Fork Valley and offers free technical and financial advising. If you have a commercial, institutional or industrial development project (new construction or retrofit) that you would like to explore, please reach out — as early in the process as possible —  to Marty Treadway at 970.925.9775 ext. 504. Learn more about CORE’s grant program here.