(Note: per Chris Chatto 11-2020, We can say this is net-positive).


Rocky Mountain Institute’s new 15,600 SF office building in Basalt, Colorado is a physical manifestation of the organization’s work and values. It maximizes energy and resource efficiency, while creating a structure that complements and strengthens the local community and serves as a demonstration facility for high-performance integrated design and technologies. Designed to be a 100-year building, the ZGF team utilized a variety of tools to create a LEED Platinum, Net-Zero energy (NZE), Passive House Institute (PHIUS)-certified and Living Building Challenge Petal certified building. The project includes a super-insulated building envelope with structural insulated panels; a cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure; integrated operable external shading optimized for passive heating, cooling, and daylighting; natural ventilation; photovoltaics; and multiple connections to the outdoors. The exterior palette was selected from regional materials that blend into the native environment, while meeting the project’s durability goals. Rough-hewn Colorado sandstone walls are battered to subtly capture snow, mimicking the rocky cliffs beyond; zinc shingled forms echo the mountain silhouette. Natural Juniper was harvested from areas of invasive overgrowth and will obtain a silver patina with time.


The interior of the building is a light-filled, comfortable environment designed to connect the occupants to nature using the tenets of biophilic design. The exposed CLT and glulam structure celebrates natural resources of the region, while the balanced neutral palette maximizes light reflection and minimizes eye strain. Ergonomic, flexible workstations offer river and mountain views, and operable windows admit gentle breezes and the sound of the river. The exterior terrace and interior perches provide moments of respite. Utilizing Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), the design and construction team’s collaboration expanded what is possible for energy-efficient climate responsive commercial buildings, while prioritizing a beautiful, functional architecture. As a result, the Innovation Center is proving to be the most energy-efficient building in one of the coldest U.S. climate zones.




ZGF’s in-house prototyping and fabrication studio designed, fabricated, and installed the RMI Innovation Center’s donor recognition wall in a prominent location along the entry lobby’s arcing corridor. The solid surface and wood construct emerges from the wall as an integrated element of the architecture, reflecting the language of curves and arcs in the building form and referencing natural patterns in the surrounding landscape. Elegant and simple materials were selected to ensure a timeless aesthetic: donor names were carved into white Corian, which was then thermally formed over CNC-milled walnut blocks using a repurposed pizza oven. The 28 individual panels provide space for 60 names and are magnetically mounted to easily add recognition for future donors. The final installation was inset into the gypsum board wall and highlighted with art lighting to create a focal point for recognition of those who made the award-winning building possible.