Category 1A: Design over $500,000 Project Name: Edgemont Highlands Project location: Durango, Colorado
Project summary: Community in Nature – Since its inception in 2003, Edgemont Highlands (a 500-acre, master-planned community in Durango, Colorado) has strived to blend family living and community into the beauty and natural surroundings of this spectacular site. One-time custom home builder and now President and Owner of Edgemont Highlands described it best, “Our vision of community has been rooted in a respect for and appreciation of the natural wonders of the property. Located in the beautiful ponderosa pine forest just east of Durango, Colorado, nature has provided the property with sturdy stands of gambel oak, rock outcroppings covered with lichen, secluded draws and rugged terrain. Our efforts have been to create a community that invites its residents to explore and enjoy the beauty and solitude and to share in our commitment to tread on it as lightly as possible.”
Purpose of project: The landscape architect was hired to amend the approved master plan and design a sustainable mountain community that could be used and valued by all who live in and visit this wonderful setting. The design team spent countless hours on site to layout and craft this community. The team, who was committed to fully understanding every nuance of the site, created a thriving community that provides homeowners with exceptional amenities while also incorporating sustainable practices, architecturally integrated homes and shared access to the natural surroundings to respect the land its built upon. This goal was realized though:
Conscientious land planning and design that demonstrates a respect for the land’s natural features with a harmonious integration of amenities and homes where each site relates and shares in those natural features as much as possible.
A creative, practical, appropriate, consistent and inviting architectural landscape that reflects both continuity and diversity.
A sincere effort to incorporate practical, environmentally responsible practices, including energy efficiency, material consideration, minimal disruption of soils and erosion control.
A particular effort to be sensitive to water usage while at the same time giving guidance and examples in creating inviting and rich landscaping.
The creation of amenities that promote opportunities for interaction and sharing among community members and that provide individual opportunities to share outdoor natural features.
A dedication to thoughtful decision making and quality in all details.
Construction budget: $2 million
Role of landscape architect: Seeing the opportunity to plan and design a new community within a natural mountain setting, the landscape architect led the client and consultant team to create a project that fit the land and at the same time established a strong sense of place. Planning and design elements included project entries, roads, trails and open space systems, pocket parks and community gathering spaces, demonstration gardens, and the concept of art in the landscape. The landscape architect led and collaborated with a group of consultants that included an architect, a civil engineer, an environmental specialist and local artists. Special factors: Through its dedication and commitment to quality, over 100 units have been sold in Edgemont to date and through a very difficult time in our economy. This further supports and embraces the efforts of the client and consultant team to be “light on the land,” respecting the natural beauty of the place, and planning and designing using natural and local materials while at the same time creating a sustainable and vibrant community. The families who currently live at Edgemont are proud and excited to be part of a community the sets a positive and proven example of how to do it right.
Significance: One of Edgemont Highlands’ founding principles is a dedication to thoughtful decision-making. Before the landscape architect-led team made any plans, it paused to ensure every decision led to mindful stewardship of the land.
187 acres of new open space. By converting a previously approved golf course into 187 acres of new open space, the team supported its stewardship goal and made the single largest reduction in the community’s environmental impact. The elimination of the golf course drastically reduced water usage, chemical spray use, tree removal and soil disruption. Also, it allowed the team’s design to provide protection of the more sensitive areas such as steep slopes and canyons while reducing the disruption of wildlife migration patterns. This change also resulted in a total density reduction of 265 residential units.
New roads that helped to preserve trees and reduce environmental impact. In the team’s land planning efforts, roads were designed and placed in a manner that minimized disturbances and utilized natural drainage patterns. The larger trees that did have to be removed to construct the roads were milled into lumber on site and were used in the building of homes and the community lodge. Smaller trees were chipped on site and used on the walking trails as part of trail system, which currently encompasses over 10 miles.
A xeric demonstration garden that illustrates environmentally friendly landscaping. Continuing in the vein of making the community more ecologically sensitive, the landscape architect implemented considerable xeric landscaping requirements that are consistent with the natural high desert landscape. The team provided a comprehensive list of suggested plantings within the landscape guidelines. A xeric garden around the community lodge serves as a demonstration of the beauty that can be achieved while honoring the area’s climate.
Local artists’ input that enhances the aesthetics of the property. The team contracted with a local sculptor to build and install large-scale art pieces. A giant steel pine cone at one of the community’s entrances entry and giant oak leaves and acorns at the second entrance celebrate the natural beauty of the property and welcome residents and visitors into the community in a playful, unique and understated way. Another local environmental artist created many subtle, thought-provoking installations (constructed from native materials found on the property) that were placed along the trail system.
Built Green Awards. Many of the homes within Edgemont Highlands have incorporated various levels of energy efficient and sustainable practices into their design. Through the many aspects of the team’s careful approach to developing this land, Edgemont Highlands allows people to have a positive interaction with and responsible approach to respecting the natural environment.
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