Green Building – Q/A with Tim Hagman

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Tim Hagman, one of the pioneers of sustainable and responsible architecture in Aspen, Colorado. Here are a few highlights of our discussion.

When was the first time you remember learning about “green” building?

I first started developing an interest in the topic in the early 70s. The prevailing feeling was wanting to do things different – that the way buildings were being designed and constructed could be vastly improved. There was also a desire to know where materials came from (wood, glues, tiles, steel) and how they were made or sourced.

What/when was your first project that incorporated this philosophy?  

My first foray into green design was with a talented team working together to incorporating passive solar heating in the Pitkin County Airport in 1975. It was a ground breaking project at the time that influenced the community – making them acknowledge there are better/easier ways to heat a building. The next big project was the Sport Obermeyer building that utilized trombe hybrid walls (another passive heating technique). My earliest residential design was a fully, passively heated home on Red Mountain. It also used trombe walls and water tanks of stainless steel below southern facing windows. Looking back it was pretty archaic but it worked!

What is the latest/greatest thing you have learned about green building?

I don’t think there is one thing, more of an overall philosophy of looking at buildings more holistically. Every facet of construction “counts” – from wood to glues to concrete to mechanical heating/cooling. My personal goal is to get as close to zero energy usage as possible. Pushing limits of energy production from the building through photovoltaics, insulation and site orientation.

What is your advice for new architects around this concept?

To really look at buildings from the perspective that they have to look good, function well and be pleasing overall – and at the core the goal is to make them as efficient and responsible as possible.

Do you have a mentor or architect you look to for inspiration in this regard?

There were a number of architects that pioneered the green building space with innovative and at times outlandish ideas. Some icons I revered are Steve Baer of Zomeworks who started creating passively heated domes in 1969.  Ed Mazria started a research center at the University of New Mexico and has written many books on resource conservation and passive heating/cooling.

How do you incorporate this into all of your projects? Tell me about your process.

It all starts with site analysis and considerations – what way does the wind blow, where does the sun rise/set, and how can we capture the views. And of course considering the bigger, natural surroundings and environment (wildlife patterns, avalanche paths, etc.). This has recently been given the name of biophilic design, but something I have been doing since the beginning.  

A big part is educating the client about designing a comfortable space (without temperature swings), multi-purposing rooms/spaces, and the increased cost of ‘doing it right.’

Do jurisdictions require sustainable practice as part of their building code?

Aspen has really be on the cutting-edge of these types of regulations. They integrated code years ago, then Snowmass joined the ranks and now Basalt and Carbondale and Glenwood Springs have responsible building codes.