June 9, 2009

Big Sky Mountain High: Todd Thomson Walks The Walk

From the World Resources Institute

June 2009


Nestled in the majestic mountains of Big Sky, Montana, WRI Board Member Todd Thomson’s new home quietly sits in the vast open countryside near Yellowstone National Park. Take a closer look beyond the idyllic and tranquil setting, however, and you’ll quickly realize that the scenery and architecture of this home aren’t the only awe-inspiring things in these mountains.

Headwaters Camp, the name of the log cabin style home owned by Melissa and Todd Thomson at Yellowstone Club, stands as a testament to the Thomson’s commitment to the environment and sustainable living. This past spring, it was recognized by the United States Green Building Council for achieving LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification. It is only the third home in Montana to receive any kind of certification from the USGBC and the first in Southwest Montana to receive Platinum certification.

In undertaking this project, the Thomsons worked with Highline Partners, Dan Joseph Architects, and Kath Williams + Associates to carefully and creatively build a home that would not only be architecturally stunning but also be environmentally friendly and sustainable. LEED certification for residential homes measures a home’s performance in seven environmental categories: Location and Linkages, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Indoor Environmental Quality, Energy and Atmosphere, Homeowner Awareness, and Innovation and Design. With over one hundred variables to achieving the extremely rigorous LEED certification, the architects, designers, and builders needed to be truly innovative. It required re-thinking age old building and design techniques in an effort to minimize the impact on the environment, while also emphasizing energy efficient design and building methods. Headwaters Camp achieved this impact through the use of local and reclaimed materials, eliminating construction waste, and taking advantage of increasingly affordable energy reducing technologies. Triple glazed windows, super insulation, on-demand water heating systems, ground source heat pumps, passive solar design, dual flush toilets and grey water reclamation systems are just some of the many technologies that improved the sustainability of Headwaters Camp and dramatically decreased its overall energy demand.

“This was a remarkable experience for us. Our building team managed to accomplish the highest level of green certification with a gorgeous, rustic design and quality construction—all with comfort and exceptional livability for our family. They managed to deliver this with minimal additional up-front costs and much lower heating and energy costs. I can only hope others are inspired by our experience and follow a similar path,” says Todd Thomson of the building and LEED certification of Headwaters Camp.

The Thomson’s commitment to building green should also be credited. WRI staff and board members place great importance on the idea of being committed to important environmental issues and “walking the talk” when it comes to the environment. Building green, reducing our carbon emissions to net zero every year, and working in a LEED certified Gold workspace are just some of the ways WRI tries to lead by doing. As an organization, and as individuals, we hope that our actions, like the Thomsons, will inspire and motivate others to be passionate and involved when trying to protect our environment.

Todd Thomson is CEO of Headwaters Capital and is a Board Member of WRI.