A Comprehensive Guide to Green Building Practices

Architects and builders alike play a crucial role in forming a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future. With the increasing urgency to act on climate change and the pressing need for ecological conservation, the shift towards green building practices and sustainable materials has become a fundamental necessity. 

The transition to green building is not just a trend but a profound shift in the construction and architectural industries, aiming to harmonize human habitats with the natural world. This approach not only addresses the immediate impacts of construction on the environment but also looks toward long-term sustainability and efficiency in the built environment.

In this blog, we explore the core principles of sustainable building design, the various advantages of environmentally friendly construction, and shed light on the most effective practices and materials for reducing the industry’s carbon footprint. 

Understanding Sustainable Building Design

green ranch

Sustainable building design minimizes environmental impact while enhancing efficiency and sustainability in using materials, energy, and space. This approach champions the creation, operation, and decommissioning of buildings in ways that contribute positively to their surroundings and to the health of those who occupy them. It also emphasizes energy efficiency by integrating renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal. Water conservation is another cornerstone achieved via innovative rainwater harvesting systems and greywater reuse. Moreover, sustainable design involves carefully selecting recyclable building materials that have a low environmental footprint and are durable over time. Buildings can achieve remarkable sustainability and efficiency by embedding these elements into the design process from the beginning. 

Integrating Sustainability in Our Design Methods

The transition towards sustainable construction methods marks a significant paradigm shift in planning, designing, and constructing buildings. This evolution in construction philosophy, incorporating modular construction techniques and an emphasis on reducing waste and shortening construction timelines, is evident in various architectural styles, including ranch architecture. At SRI, we’ve made the shift toward sustainable practices and integrated these ideals into our design principles. 

Adopting green practices, our projects go beyond looking good to also being good for the planet. We carefully choose environmentally friendly materials, aim for energy savings and plan spaces to make the most of natural light. This way, we reduce our impact on the environment while making the places we create more enjoyable for everyone.

Green certifications, such as LEED, serve as a guiding framework for these efforts, providing benchmarks and validation for environmental stewardship. Moreover, the integration of innovative technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) into construction processes, optimizes energy consumption, reduces emissions, and enhances overall building performance, leading to smarter, more sustainable building solutions.

The Benefits of Eco-Friendly Design

ranch at night

Healthier Lives with Green Construction

The move towards eco-friendly construction aims to create healthier living and working spaces. By prioritizing aspects such as indoor air quality and natural lighting, green buildings significantly enhance the well-being of their occupants. Advanced ventilation systems and choosing non-toxic, low-emitting materials reduce harmful pollutants, ensuring a healthier indoor climate. This focus on health and wellness is a testament to the profound impact that building design and construction can have on human health.

Green Builds Cut Waste

One of the hallmark features of sustainable construction is its emphasis on waste reduction across all stages of the building lifecycle. From meticulously planning material usage to recycling construction waste, each step in the process is designed to minimize the environmental footprint of building activities. This approach conserves resources and sets a precedent for responsible construction practices that can be replicated across the industry.

Eco-Construction Boosts Economy

The economic implications of green construction extend beyond the direct benefits of energy savings and operational efficiencies. The sector catalyzes economic growth, creating new job opportunities in green design, construction, and maintenance. This economic stimulation is complemented by the environmental benefits of reduced resource consumption and lower carbon emissions, illustrating the symbiotic relationship between ecological sustainability and economic vitality. A win-win!

Cost-Saving Green Techniques

Although initial investment costs for green buildings may exceed those of conventional constructions, the long-term financial benefits are substantial. Green buildings typically incur lower energy costs, reduced water bills, and diminished maintenance expenses, contributing to significant savings over the building’s lifespan. Furthermore, green building practices often increase property values, offering tangible financial incentives for developers and owners alike.

Material Cost Drops in Eco-Building

The growing demand for sustainable building materials has decreased their costs, making green construction more accessible and affordable. This trend towards cost reduction facilitates a broader adoption of eco-friendly materials, drives innovation in the industry, and encourages builders and architects to incorporate more of these sustainable practices without compromising financial viability.

Green Building: Sustainable Materials Guide

Choosing the right materials is crucial for construction projects’ environmental impact and long-term sustainability. Sustainable building materials stand out due to their renewability, minimal energy consumption in production (low embodied energy), and their potential for recycling or repurposing once they reach the end of their useful life. Among the preferred options are fast-growing resources such as bamboo, known for its strength and versatility; materials containing recycled content like steel, which reduces the demand for virgin resources; and reclaimed materials like wood, which preserve forests and add unique aesthetic value to buildings. These eco-friendly choices help lessen the ecological footprint of construction by minimizing waste and energy use, thereby supporting the creation of buildings that are not only healthier for their occupants but also more efficient in terms of energy consumption. The adoption of such materials is a testament to the construction industry’s commitment to environmental responsibility and its role in promoting sustainability.

Why Sustainability Matters in Construction

ranch green sustainability

According to the UN Environmental Programme, the construction industry alone contributes to 37% of global carbon emissions and resource depletion. By embracing sustainable building practices, the industry can mitigate its environmental impact, foster biodiversity, and contribute positively to the global effort against climate change. This commitment to sustainability is a response to environmental challenges and an opportunity to redefine the industry’s role in building a sustainable future.

Mastering the Principles of Green Construction Techniques

Achieving mastery in green construction requires a commitment to ongoing learning, innovation, and adapting best practices. It demands a comprehensive understanding of the environmental impacts associated with construction and a dedicated effort to minimize them through thoughtful design, material selection, and construction practices. This journey towards sustainability is characterized by a continuous search for balance between economic, social, and environmental priorities, driving the construction industry towards a more sustainable, efficient, and inclusive future.

By fostering a culture of sustainability within the design industry, we pave the way for a future where buildings exist in harmony with their natural surroundings and contribute to society’s well-being and prosperity. The principles and practices of green buildings represent a significant step forward in our collective journey towards a more sustainable and resilient built environment.

To learn more about effectively embracing green building practices, contact SRI Architects. Our expert team specializes in designing homes that are practical and grounded in sustainable principles. 


more articles

Charlotte R. DeChant



As a young artist, Charlotte tailored her pre-architecture undergraduate degree at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, and completed her Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver. With her fresh eyes, she is an observer, analyst and critic of our processes, and her imagination inspires and contributes to our creativity. Of the partners, Charlotte’s willingness to raise the children fostered Doug’s ability to focus upon the practice.

She is a lifelong resident of Colorado, skied Vail in the early years as a child and remains an excellent bump skier (if the sun is shining). She was an original teammate of the Vail Breakaways, Vail’s first women’s hockey team. Charlotte’s vision includes an amazing gift for seeing, rescuing, restoring and placing cast-off furniture and other elements, giving the pieces valuable, renewed lives.

Douglas M. DeChant

Founding Partner/Principal


Architecture is more than a profession for Doug, our principal designer; it is a calling, understood since childhood. While a modernist at heart, his work reflects the necessary context of each setting and the voice of each client. He trained in the program of modernist and former Bauhaus Director Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, at Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in Chicago. After working throughout the nation and overseas, Doug settled in Vail in 1985, where he met his wife, Charlotte. Together they founded the practice in 1989 and have enjoyed raising four amazing children.

Doug’s service has included the Eagle County, Colorado, Planning Commission; the faculty of the Byron Fellowship, an annual sustainable communities conference; panelist at the Summit for Creativity in La Jolla sponsored by The Design Futures Council; participation in local design review boards; youth sports coaching; and various lay-leadership positions in his church. In 2004, he conceived ‘Benevolent Architecture’, a proprietary service offering low-cost or no-cost architecture and consulting to worthy ministries and non-profits.  In 2005, Doug began to develop an intimate, artistic retreat and conference venue, Wellspring Ranch, LLC, relocating and restoring several historic Colorado structures upon a remarkable property outside of Buena Vista, Colorado.

He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, and has been licensed in numerous states, including Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Indiana, Georgia and Pennsylvania. He finds balance in guitar, sculpture, hiking, snowshoeing, golf and crafting various elements of his retreat venue. 

Tom Bashford


Tom, one of our most valued, gifted leaders, passed away unexpectedly in March 2017. Together with his joyful spirit and hilarious dry wit, he enhanced our studio with a wealth of design and management experience. Tom will never be replaced. He was the type of person, father, leader, and mentor to which we all aspire, and the fruit of his efforts will live on, in his son, in us, and in our projects.

Pam, Peraya Mongkolwongrojn


Peraya, Pam, is originally from Bangkok, Thailand, where she first became interested in Architecture from the rich spatial environment.  She explored Canada before moving to the States to pursue her passion for architecture. Pam went to the University of Arizona to earn a Bachelor of Architecture professional degree. During school, she energized a passion for the arts and drawing. 

In her free time, Pam enjoys exploring the great outdoors, hiking through Colorado’s scenic landscapes, and finding inspiration for her designs in nature. With a keen eye for detail and a creative approach to problem-solving, Pam has been involved in many of our custom residential homes. Her passion for the arts and drawing has influenced her design style, which incorporates elements of beauty and functionality. Pam’s commitment to excellence and her love for architecture make her a dedicated professional who strives to make a difference through her work.

As she continues to grow and learn in her field, Pam remains devoted to creating innovative spaces that enrich people’s lives and leave a positive legacy for future generations.

Brett Lehr

Project Manager

Brett is a designer with a unique blend of expertise, holding an undergraduate degree in Media Arts from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and an M.Arch degree from the University of Nebraska. His diverse educational background has ignited a passion for utilizing realistic virtual environments to enhance the efficiency, enjoyment, and overall success of architectural design processes.

Beyond his professional pursuits, Brett finds joy in a variety of hobbies, including snow skiing, biking, fly fishing, golf, and hiking. Embracing the scenic wonders of the Vail Valley, he has found the perfect lifestyle fit, drawing creative inspiration from the surrounding natural beauty.

Laurie Baggott


Our studio is fortunate to have Laurie bring her considerable experience in business and finance to our daily operations. Among her many administrative responsibilities, she manages accounting, payroll and invoicing for us. When not busy here or as a private chef, she avidly hikes in our beautiful summers and snowshoes in the winter.

Patricia Marcine


Earning her Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Houston in 2016 was just the beginning. From there, Trish headed to Europe, to study at the Graz University of Technology in Austria and work at the Aedes Architekturforum. Then she determined it was time to return to the Rocky Mountains. We became beneficiaries of her delightful, collaborative spirit when she joined our studio in early 2018. Her savvy technical support and inspired design voice enhance each project, while her design comprehension and growth demonstrate that she has a future with much to offer the profession. As a lifelong artist, Trish’s search for a practical art form and meaningful profession has been fulfilled by custom residential architecture, where “…not a day truly feels like work.”

Trish grew up in Northern New Jersey, playing club and varsity soccer, enjoying ski club with friends, and learning to snowboard at a young age. As a teen, she competed in various equestrian events, highlighted by working for Frank and Mary Chapot to train Olympic-level show jumpers. Eventually, faster hobbies were necessary, and Trish became a driving instructor for the SCCA and track-day rider on her CBR600RR. She’s also been an enthusiastic racer on our company’s ‘ski team’. When a new project surfaces, she’s pleased to slow down enough to collaborate with the team.

Emily Warren


Emily joined us from the DC area, lured by the mountains, our core values and our creative environment. She earned a Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Architecture degrees from SUNY Buffalo’s School of Architecture & Planning, with a minor in Earth System Science.

Through her wonderfully infectious spirit, Emily eagerly contributes diverse knowledge and experience, having worked on historic National Park Service documentation, and urban high-density residential projects facing strict constraints. She is a productive and dedicated team player who thrives through learning and contributing to the growth of others. Her detail, project management and organizational skills are exceptional. Emily is licensed in Maryland, and nationally accredited by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

Emily is passionate about youth empowerment, with considerable experience teaching and mentoring in schools and camps. She’s an ardent weightlifter, hiker and nature enthusiast, embracing the Vail Valley’s active, outdoor lifestyle.

Cam Frey


Cam was introduced to Colorado’s rivers and mountains at an early age, returning annually from Michigan with his family to fly-fish and hike near the small mining town of Creede. His interest in design and architecture was ignited by his high school drafting teacher, who instilled a balanced approach to design through technology and craft. Cam received his BA from UNC, Chapel Hill, followed by a few years of medical research before heading West to earn his Master of Architecture from the University of Oregon. There he became interested in the interdisciplinary study of Biomimicry; an approach to solving design problems by looking to nature. Not coincidentally, this interest, the stunning landscapes, wildlife, and outdoor lifestyle led Cam back to Colorado in 2014. He joined us in 2017, quickly becoming a central piece of our culture and project management structure.

Cam serves on the Design Review Committee of the Arrowhead at Vail community, is a certified Biomimicry Specialist and licensed Architect in the state of Colorado.

His other pursuits include fly-fishing, skiing, hiking, and a good game of euchre…, and the list continues to grow. He is married to a wonderfully talented children’s book illustrator, and dotes on his young son.

Ben Marion


From an early age, Ben had a pen in hand and a curiosity for exploring both natural and built environments. Much of his adolescence was spent drawing what he observed, balanced with his passions for cross-country skiing the New England forests and playing soccer as far away as Europe. Like many of us, Ben arrived in Colorado as an adult, following a lifelong passion to further pursue the resort lifestyle. After graduating from the University of Colorado, he practiced with some of the finest architects and builders in the region, creating fine homes and other structures. His broad experience includes California mountain resort homes, as well as mixed-use and commercial structures, peppered with an interesting mix of furniture building and construction. In our studio, Ben is a strong design voice and outstanding project manager, leading by quiet example as he mentors our emerging leaders.

Ben remains passionate about skiing and soccer, coaching both youth sports locally. Travel remains in his blood as he and his family explore the west in their vintage 1967 camper.

Bert Willemse


Bert found a home away from home in the Vail Valley while exploring North America’s most beautiful landscapes on a post-graduation road trip…, from his hometown of Bellvale, New York to Wasilla, Alaska. He had completed his studies at SUNY Buffalo and apprenticed with two well-known firms in New York’s Hudson Valley area before joining our studio. As the son of a general contractor Bert gained practical construction knowledge with hands-on experience in the field. His many professional attributes are exceeded only by his wonderful, collaborative spirit.

Naturally, Bert is an active individual who embraces hiking, biking and skiing in our amazing Colorado mountains.

Adam H. Harrison

NCARB, LEED AP / Principal


After graduating from Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in 1994 and working as an intern for three years at Fujikawa Johnson and Associates in Chicago, Adam packed his van and toured America to determine where he might settle; he found Vail and Shepherd Resources in September of 1997. After growing from intern to project manager to associate, Adam began transitioning into ownership in 2017 and became a principal owner in early 2020. As a dedicated designer, Adam loves collaborating with his fellow architects and interns while managing a busy studio.

His priorities are rooted in sustainability, strong leadership skills, and staff mentoring to uphold the core values of the practice. He is licensed in Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina and serves as the chairman of the Red Sky Ranch Design Review Board. Adam enjoys golf, mountain biking, skiing, music, and any activity involving his daughter Bellalee. Adam has been practicing for a quarter century and looks forward to designing and collaborating for another quarter century; the opportunity to doodle a quick sketch, with the future opportunity of walking through such a doodle fuels his creativity and passion for design.

Adam H. Harrison

NCARB, LEED AP / Principle


As a young artist, Charlotte tailored her pre-architecture undergraduate degree at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, and completed her Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver. With her fresh eyes, she is an observer, analyst and critic of our processes, and her imagination inspires and contributes to our creativity. Of the partners, Charlotte’s willingness to raise the children fostered Doug’s ability to focus upon the practice.

She is a lifelong resident of Colorado, skied Vail in the early years as a child and remains an excellent bump skier (if the sun is shining). She was an original teammate of the Vail Breakaways, Vail’s first women’s hockey team. Charlotte’s vision includes an amazing gift for seeing, rescuing, restoring and placing cast-off furniture and other elements, giving the pieces valuable, renewed lives.