How Green Building Products Improve Sustainability

Sustainability is certainly not a new term in the AEC industry, but has become popularized with the advent of LEED, and now more rigorous programs such as the WELL Building Standard and Living Building Challenge. Green building products are an essential pillar to sustainability that can affect the energy efficiency, water efficiency, air quality and the overall building’s impact on the environment.

What are Green Building Products?

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) defines green building as the “planning, design, construction and operations of buildings with several central considerations: energy use, water use, indoor environmental quality, material selection and the building’s effects on its site.”

Green building products are an essential pillar to green building and sustainability that can help lower energy consumption, increase water efficiency, improve indoor air quality and overall reduce the building’s carbon footprint on the environment.

Green building products are often characterized by the following:

  • Amount of recycled content within the material itself
  • How the material was extracted from the environment
  • Manufacturing process to make the product
  • Location where the product was sourced in relation to the construction site

Another quality of green building products that has become more prominent lately in the face of the infamous Hurricane Katrina and now Hurricane Harvey, is its resiliency to natural disasters. For example, the National Ready Mix Concrete Association (NRMCA) has dedicated resources to this resiliency as the new sustainability entitled “Pathway to Resilience – A Guide to Developing a Community Action Plan.” The plan outlines how the building community can help prevent losses of life and decrease the occurrence of destruction in the wake of natural disasters by using resilient building products.

Driving Forces of Green Building Products

Amidst this wave of sustainable building practices, one can often question what is driving the need for more green building products. One answer lies in the increase of green building codes as set by the International Code Council (ICC) that develops codes and standards used in the design, construction and compliance processes to construct safe and sustainable buildings. The ICC even has a sector dedicated to green building codes known as the International Green Construction Codes (IgCC). The IgCC is touted as the first model code to include sustainability measures for the entire construction lifecycle from design to construction to certificate of occupancy to years after the buildings is in use.

These green building codes are causing municipalities, states and federal institutions alike to create mandates for sustainability for their buildings. For instance, the City of Denver passed the Executive Order 123 that states that “all buildings constructed, renovated, or maintained with City funds or using City bonding capacity are to be designed, constructed, operated, and maintained according to the principles outlined in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, the United States Environmental Protection Agencies ENERGY STAR program, and other applicable best management practices for sustainability and energy efficiency.”

Another driving factor for green building products includes the people inhabiting these buildings. Millennials, which are currently the nation’s largest living generation, already at 76 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest reports, are being dubbed as the “Green Generation” and are one of the main drivers of sustainability. In a Neilson report, millennials are found to be willing to pay more for sustainable products and housing.

Innovative Green Building Products

The widespread usage of green building products is identified as one of the top green building trends for 2017 according to the Survival Renewable Energy group. Some of those green building materials include:

  • Metal roofing – when applied in the appropriate manner, the material itself absorbs heat and can add to the energy efficiency of the building; in addition, the metal roofing itself is composed of recycled materials
  • Solar power – solar panels that use natural energy sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, like those used at the Denver International Airport, are taking center stage as a widely used green building product, especially after the most recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (NFCCC)

Other innovative green building products that improve sustainability include those that help increase a building’s energy efficiency and decrease stormwater runoff. Below are some examples from the Top 10 Green Building Products for 2017 as identified by Construction Dive.

  • Nextek Power Hub Driver – addresses the massive energy consumption in the conversion of alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC).
    • This product serves as an all-in-one AC to DC power supply and minimizes system failures which can lead to cost savings
  • Bro-Microbics d-Rain Joint Rainwater filter drain – this green building product mitigates stormwater runoff issues by serving as an expansion joint in a concrete slab that provides a means for subsurface drainage. 

Tella Firma Concrete System as a Viable Green Building Product 

Green building products can also be found in a building’s foundation. Tella Firma is a suspended concrete foundation system that is environmentally friendly with no chemicals used and minimal waste.

Associations like the American Concrete Institute (ACI), which RMG is a member of, are leading the way to educate the industry about the structural integrity and resiliency of concrete based structures. For instance, concrete is found to be a durable material that provides longevity in buildings with little to no maintenance. As a concrete based foundation system, Tella Firma protects the slab and structure from the shrinking and swelling of our Colorado soils.

To take advantage of this green building product in your next project, schedule your Tella Firma consultation today!

Why Mid-Rise Buildings are “On the Rise”

As Colorado’s population grows, developers are embracing mid-rise buildings as a solution to proactively meet the region’s growth. In recent years, that growth has caused an overall housing shortage coupled with a need for affordable housing. These problems are especially apparent in Colorado’s Denver-metro area.

Why Mid-Rise Buildings

Mid-rise buildings are part of the ever-growing multifamily housing market that has become more prevalent lately in Colorado. With rising population rates, Metro Denver has struggled to keep pace with the development needs for housing. According to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation the population of Metro Denver is currently more than three million people, with an estimation of an increase to more than 3.3 million people by 2020. To provide appropriate growth strategies, developers have turned to mid-rise buildings.

In a recent study published by the City and County of Denver, mid-rise buildings are defined as buildings that are between five to nine stories. This multi-story building type usually includes at least one elevator and is located in urban areas. Mid-rise buildings are “on the rise” in Metro Denver based on the following, including:

  • Cost-effective building options
  • Sustainable building practices
  • Complements to transit-oriented development (TOD)

Mid-rise Buildings are Cost-Effective

Mid-rise buildings can be more cost effective than other housing options due to affordable building materials and speedier construction times. They also allow for an increase in community density without negatively affecting residents.

Typical building materials used for mid-rise buildings include steel-frame, post-tensioned concrete and Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF’s) structures. Organizations such as the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association offer cost and energy analyses to demonstrate the overall cost savings of concrete with their Build with Strength campaign.

With lower construction costs and faster construction schedules, mid-rise buildings also support Denver’s need for more affordable housing. Denver Mayor Hancock reported in May 2017 that the city needs at least 21,000 affordable housing units just to meet current demand. With the U.S. Census Bureau ranking Colorado the seventh fastest growing state in the country, adding 91,726 new residents between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016 (at a rate of almost 10,000 per month), the need for affordable housing is only set to increase.

Mid-rise buildings also allow for an increase in community density without the expense of high-rise buildings. As one of the top goals in the Metro Vision 2035 plan produced by the Denver Regional Council of Governments, density can help achieve cost-savings by building on smaller lot sizes and using less resources.

Sustainable Building

With the rising popularity in sustainable building or green building, mid-rise buildings can help developers meet required energy efficiency standards and better qualify for sustainable programs, such as LEED, WELL Building and Energy Star.

The City and County of Denver recently released a new mandate entitled Energize Denver Benchmarking Ordinance that calls for a 10% reduction in energy consumption of commercial and multifamily buildings by the end of 2020. Using compact building designs that take advantage of unused space can lower the building project’s carbon footprint.

The construction materials of mid-rise buildings also influence the project’s sustainability. According to the Concrete Network, concrete offers several sustainable aspects including long-lasting durability, ability to absorb and retain heat, ability to retain stormwater and minimal waste as a building product.


Transit-Oriented Development

As Colorado’s population continues to increase, traffic congestion, roadway damage and the cost of highway construction are escalating as well. One solution to this ever-growing issue is to create more opportunities for transit-oriented development (TOD).

The main concepts of TOD’s include places to live, work and play, like the new Peña Station Next developed by Panasonic near the Denver International Airport. Mid-rise buildings that include retail and other mixed-use options within the building are essential components to TOD’s.

“It’s time for Denver to show up,” said Kimball Crangle, Colorado Market President for Gorman & Co., in a panel on The NEXT Generation of Urban Infill Developers, an event sponsored by the Urban Land Institute of Colorado that shared best practices for TOD development.

“As a city, we’re gaining global attention and we’re attracting more funding, but we need to show the way in terms of social equity and equal opportunities. We’re a welcoming community and we encourage an entrepreneurial spirit that translates to who you live next to and how we create community.”

Case in Point  

One recent example of a mid-rise building in Denver includes the construction of Alameda Station – a 338-unit transit-oriented community with three four-story buildings at the former site of the Denver Studio Complex. RMG joined the design and construction team to perform the compliance inspections based on the plans provided.

After reviewing the engineered plans, RMG performed over fifty ongoing observations during the construction phase. This ensured the framing, roofing and structural components complied with the engineered design. RMG also provided numerous reports on their findings and recommendations during the different construction phases of all three buildings.

To support the growth of the mid-rise buildings in the Denver Metro area, RMG can provide one of its most established services with third party “special inspections.” These inspections ensure that the projects are following international building codes during the construction phase and can add to the success of mid-rise building projects. Contact RMG to make sure your building projects are in compliance.

RMG Article in Mile High CRE

millennial housing trends

One of our architects, Keith E. Moore, recently wrote an article that was published by Mile High CRE on millennial housing trends:

“As the nation’s largest living generation, millennials stand to make quite an impact on the future of the multifamily commercial real estate market. Already at 76 million, their numbers are expected to peak in 2036 at 82.1 million, surpassing the baby boomers’ by nearly 3 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest reports released in April 2016. Another report by the Case Foundation survey of more than 75,000 millennials, finds that the millennial generation will be the most prolific generation to inhabit our country.

By 2022, not only will millennials be the driving force behind the new economy, they will also be controlling most of the economic growth factors in Colorado that will impact the multifamily markets.”

Read the full article here.

Nate Dowden receives NSPE – CO Manager of the Year!

Best of Colorado News article on RMG

Rocky Mountain Group, architects & engineers aren’t just for skyscrapers.

 February 7, 2017

staff writer

INTRODUCTION – I’ve tapped into a sentiment in the public that believes architects and engineers mostly work on elaborate projects such as skyscrapers, water diversion projects (like moving West Slope mountain water from the headwaters of the Colorado River and diverting it to Colorado’s Front Range and plains – google The Colorado-Big Thompson Project).  Or Austin Powers like top secret aerospace campuses … But finally, we ran into a locally owned firm called Rocky Mountain Group that offers design-build solutions for citizens that are involved in a variety of construction projects including working with the first time homeowner. We like this because they are willing to sit down with everyday people. The purpose of this article is to learn more about one of Colorado’s most agile, pragmatic and innovative construction firms called Rocky Mountain Group who has offices in Colorado Springs, Englewood, Evans and Monument Colorado…this is precisely what we mean by the title COLO RAD OWNED™


BOC – Engineers and architects are among the first to get a sense of what types of projects are arriving in Colorado. What is your gut feeling as to the pipeline of jobs (quantitative ) representing people wanting to invest & develop in Colorado (relative to 2009 height of recession )

RMG – The recent increase in migration to Colorado has really been the catalyst to the boom in residential market along the Front Range. Rocky Mountain Group believes this trend will level off slightly, with an increase in commercial and infrastructure projects to support the increasing population. Additionally, the changing demographics, Millennials and 55+ Kids, is something RMG believes is a great opportunity for communities that share common grounds.

BOC – What makes your engineering firm unique?

RMG is really focused on each project, whether a single family first-time buyer or a large project with many technical challenges. We work with many residential homeowners and understand the importance to each family. We like to offer a unique line of services that covers all the needs of a home builder, from geotechnical, structural, to architectural design. Additionally, RMG is always looking for innovative solutions, such as the Tella Firma foundation system designed for soils with high clay content (expansive soils). A foundation that is elevated above the ground. RMG is always trying to bring innovative realistic solutions to the industry and homeowners. Provide a one-stop-shop for the critical points of building in Colorado’s unique landscape.

BOC – What is the 2017 greatest challenge for your firm?

RMG – Adjusting to our growth and the increased market demand! We are growing, and that is a great thing, but it does come with its unique challenges that require special attention to the market. One of the largest challenges is finding the type of qualified professionals RMG would like to have on board. We are happy to be a 30-year-old Colorado firm during these great times and are continuously looking forward to servicing the Front Range.

BOC – What is your plan to address the challenge?

RMG has recently acquired a local Denver boutique geotechnical firm with the objective of adding some great professionals onto the RMG team and help penetrate specific markets. RMG is looking to service complex projects which require added value engineering, know-how, and 30 years’ experience in Colorado.

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RMG Founder John Clarke’s interview was published in his Alma Mater – SCU – School of Engineering


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