President’s pick as ambassador to Finland creates a ‘net-zero-carbon’ home in Boulder, open Sun. Aug. 9

By Mark Samuelson

Can you build a house even greener than ‘net-zero energy?’ President Obama’s pick to serve as ambassador to Finland has done just that; and you can tour it Sunday in Boulder’s Mapleton Hill neighborhood, 1-4 p.m., just north of Pearl on Fifth.

Ambassador-designate Bruce Oreck and Spruce Street home
Bruce Oreck, appointed ambassador to Finland, created the ‘Next West House’ in Boulder, on view Sunday, Aug. 9, 429 Spruce Street, 1-4 p.m.

Boulder developer and environmentalist Bruce Oreck created his ‘Next West House’ to be ‘net-zero carbon’—so efficient that it not only makes more energy than it uses, but recovers enough to compensate for what was used to build the house and its materials. Oreck calls it “the greenest home in North America”…and received a Platinum LEED certification for it—highest possible rating.

When you tour, you’ll have a hard time seeing the systems that allow a home to be that sustainable. The first is 10 kilowatts of solar panels…three times as much generating power as builders provide with typical solar demonstration systems. Next West has one array tucked so tight to the roof you’ll have to look twice to see it; others are hidden on top of the porch and on a second roof pitch further back.

Also hard to see is a 450-foot ground-loop heat pump that recovers warmth from deep in the bedrock during winter (and cools the home during summer)…and within the farm house-style architecture, the heaviest insulation package you’ve probably ever visited: walls to R-50, ceilings between R-75 and R-90. Next West is so conserving that Oreck can heat the entire house in winter with no more than an alcohol furnace smaller than a camp stove. The solar panels provide all of the input; batteries store energy during non-sun periods.

You’ll also view a gray water tank that recovers water from sinks and showers to save the 30% of household use that goes to run toilets; LED (light emitting diode) bulbs that are more efficient and natural looking than compact fluorescents and last 20 years; a magnetic induction cooktop that wastes little heat (and saves on cooling); and a garage plug-in for a modified hybrid or all-electric car.

Oreck notes his ambassadorial appointment is a perfect match to his building work; one study rates Finland as the very greenest nation on the planet. 429 Spruce Street showcases a spectacular lot——steps from Pearl Street; a memorable view of the Flatirons; with an agricultural ditch dating from 1862 that runs from Boulder Canyon behind the house, providing water for the third-acre site. Joel Ripmaster with Colorado Landmark is listing agent, 303-443-3377.

If you go…

WHERE: ‘Next West House,’ Platinum LEED certified, ‘net-zero carbon’ design, 3-bed/3,617 sq. ft., billed “greenest home in North America.” 429 Spruce St., Boulder; take Canyon west from Broadway 5 blks to 6th St., right 2 blks to Pearl, left 1 blk to 5th, turn right, 2 blks.

PRICE: $2.895 million
WHEN: Sun., Aug. 9, 1-4 p.m.
PHONE: 303-443-3377 WEB: