We pursue holistic, contextual design that elevates well-being and resiliency for communities and the environment.


The new Gunnison County Library, shown above, is a hallmark of sustainability. Since 2009, Gunnison County has been a nationwide leader in public sector commitment to sustainable design and operational performance. In alliance with this commitment, Gunnison Libraries set an ambitious goal of a maximum 30 Energy Use Intensity (EUI) for the new library. This goal was especially formidable given the area’s extreme climate.

Winter’s frigid air settles in the Gunnison Valley making it one of the coldest places in the United States. Temperatures of -20 degrees or lower are not uncommon and require specialized building design. These requirements are compounded because temperature can fluctuate as much as 80 degrees in a single day. During the energy modeling process, the project measured an EUI of 27.

The 15,000 SF building incorporates passive design strategies such as orientation, daylighting, shading, and thermal envelope, which helped reduce the HVAC system’s overall loads. After reducing these loads, the project shifted its focus to active strategies that utilized ambient energy sources, such as solar and geothermal energy.

The photovoltaic geothermal system combines solar power with natural energy stored in the earth to heat and cool the building sustainably and efficiently. Using the closed loop ground heat exchanger, which serves the distributed ground source heat pumps located throughout the building, the HVAC system provides staff and visitors with an even, comfortable, and consistent atmosphere.

This system significantly reduces the building’s energy consumption and carbon footprint, resulting in lower energy bills and a reduction in operations and maintenance costs. Configuration of the photovoltaic and closed loop system is designed to provide the library with the ability to be Net Zero in the future as the allowable Kw of the PV array capacity is expanded in the region.

“Gunnison Library’s Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) system is exceeding performance expectations. Utility bills during the first winter of the 15,000 SF building’s operation have yet to exceed $100 per month – approximately 25% of utility costs in their previous 5,000 SF facility. The Gunnison County library staff report that comfort exceeds their expectations.”

Terry Proffer, CGD, Major Geothermal