By Rick Reynolds
With the need for stricter land management and higher-density, lower-impact developments increasingly being required, Bensonwood’s high-performance building technologies are being called upon to address the challenge. And nowhere is the challenge more imperative than in Vermont, a state known for its pristine views, progressive environmental laws and stringent building codes.
As an exemplar of the movement toward low-impact developments, last fall Bensonwood began off-site fabrication on the first multifamily townhouse in what will eventually blossom into SouthFace Village, an on-mountain community at Okemo Mountain in Ludlow, Vermont. A result of Bensonwood’s long relationship with the developer, Timber Creek at Okemo, the green, sustainable project will include several multi-unit townhouses, a lodge and other residential buildings.
Under development for the past five years, the planned, ski-in, ski-out community is designed to minimize its impact on the remote mountain site. Forward-looking, sustainable design and Montage building—where the off-site fabrication of highly-finished, panelized assemblies allows for rapid on-site assembly—will be key to Bensonwood’s goal of making SouthFace Village both a beautiful, healthy, sustainable development, and an archetype for high-quality, high-performance, eco-conscious mountain communities across North America.
Clearing the environmental bar required a multi-disciplinary approach and a close collaboration with the developer. According to lead Bensonwood architect, Randall Walter:
“In our collaborative and support efforts, we worked closely with the developer to create a master plan and obtain local and state approvals. Our off-site fabrication and other smart strategies for reduced impact on this remote mountain site, all aided in this process.”
While many think of Bensonwood primarily as a builder of timberframe barns and single-family homes, not large-scale projects, the company has, in fact, had considerable experience building high-performance townhomes and public buildings for planned developments and ski communities.
According to Walter,
“Bensonwood has a long history in the fabrication and building of both large and small-scale timberframe buildings in mountain resort areas. In New Hampshire, there’s the base lodge at Sunapee (also operated by Okemo). In Vermont, we’ve designed and built many homes on the slopes at Okemo, as well as the Timbers Restaurant at Sugarbush. In Maine, we completed the Sunday River real estate office building and one private ski home/lodge on Ridge Run just finishing now, and another just beginning in design. And in Colorado, we built the Cordillera Clubhouse and numerous other homes in the surrounding Edwards valley.”
Describing Bensonwood’s mission to build to a higher standard than the typical ski area construction, Walter added:
“These are challenging locations to build, often with limited access. Unforgiving mountain climates influence our selection of durable materials, expressive bold forms, and top-notch engineering. Our goal is to create mountain architecture that is expressive, timeless and suited to handle the tough, varied terrain of mountain climates. To achieve this, we build off site to maximize quality, and complete projects in dramatically less site time and with reduced site impact.”
Moving on to performance, Walter added:
“High-performance buildings not only save energy, but are more comfortable. For instance, sitting by a triple-glazed window makes enjoying the sunrise and the valley view possible, due to reduced heat loss.”
Given the scalability of Bensonwood’s Open-Built® 3D design grid and Montage building practices, the company is poised to design and build more low-impact, multifamily projects, as wise land stewardship becomes increasingly imperative.