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Mariposa Meadows: A Vision Realized for Green Building

The VISION House at Mariposa Meadows consists of three net-zero energy, high-performance buildings, which will serve as an off-grid sustainability center in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado

Construction best practices have evolved in the two millennia since the first telling of the parable of the two builders, one who built his house on sand and one who built his on the rock. As the kinds of storms and floods and other natural disasters Jesus mentioned in the parable increase in intensity and frequency, more builders are turning to sustainable construction principles to create homes and workplaces that can weather the storms, steward our natural resources, and reduce or eliminate their impact on the surrounding environment. 

And they’re doing it in community with Green Builder Media.

Green Builder Media and Mariposa Meadows

For 17 years, Green Builder Media has been gathering corporate professionals, sustainability luminaries, NASA scientists, spiritual leaders, and more together for thought leadership summits and sustainability events. Together they discuss the evolving events in our world and explore solutions. The retreats bring people out of cities and into nature for 3-5 days into an environment that opens people’s minds and restores a sense of wonder and awe for the natural world.

“We protect what we love. When we spend time in nature, we have the ability to become our most self-actualized selves, our most enlightened beings,” Sara Gutterman, CEO of Green Builder Media shared. “It strips away all of our social constructs.”

To do this well, Green Builder Media wanted to find a space to construct their own Sustainability Center. They looked all over the Mountain West, until they found a piece of private property that had been homesteaded by a family generations ago.

Mariposa Meadows is 123 acres of inholding, nestled in the middle of millions of acres of protected forests in Southwestern Colorado. Ninety-six percent of Hinsdale County, the location of Mariposa Meadows, is public land.

“It’s the ultimate in terms of unspoiled, raw, majestic land,” said Gutterman. “We’re building a net-zero, off-grid sustainability center as a destination location for guests, programming, and thought leader summits to get people into this pristine, magical piece of nature. You can walk in any direction and not see anyone else. It’s the most spiritually enlightening place I’ve ever found. God is definitely there.”

The VISION House at Mariposa Meadows, shown here in rendering, consists of three entirely self-sufficient, off-grid structures. Image: Green Builder Media

Mariposa Meadows’ first phase of construction featured three residential structures for housing and programming. Every single element was designed intentionally with sustainability in mind. The project is guided by 11 Tenets of green building:

  • Energy Efficiency
  • Renewable Technologies
  • Water and Resource Conservation
  • Indoor Air Quality
  • Smart Technology
  • Durability
  • Resilient Housing
  • Multifunctional Living Spaces
  • Onsite Food Production
  • Indoor/Outdoor Living
  • Wildlife Protection

“Ultimately we want to have as light of a footprint as possible,” said Gutterman. “The built environment is in place with the natural environment. One of the greatest things about Mariposa is not only that it has a great sustainability story, it also just makes sense.”

The New Age of Sustainability and Green Construction

“There used to be this myth that green building was only for the ultra-rich or hard-core greenies,” Gutterman shared. Today, however, sustainable living offers many common sense benefits. 

“It enables people to save money on energy bills and ongoing maintenance,” said Gutterman. “A lot of people who are hesitant to explore green building think that it’s too expensive. But a lot of green products have reached or surpassed price parity with conventional products.” 

It’s also important for builders and homeowners to realize that first cost is not the full cost.

“Buying a house at the lowest price per square foot is like buying a car based on its poundage,” said Gutterman. “It just doesn’t make sense.” 

A home with the lowest upfront cost means building products made with materials that can make your family sick, a home that is more susceptible to a total loss in the event of fires, floods, and storms, and higher energy bills. Homeowners need to look at the full cost of their home construction, not just the upfront investment.

“If you upgrade your heating and cooling system upfront, there may be more cost at first, but it might only take three years to pay it back, saving or even making you money. It’s the same thing with solar and other sustainable upgrades,” said Gutterman. “Sustainable products are higher quality and more durable.”

Furthermore, green building practices address many homeowner expectations for a healthy home, both in terms of air quality and toxins. For the first time in 17 years, having a healthy home is more important to homebuyers than its location.

“Today’s homebuyers are influencing the market,” said Gutterman. “Millennials and older Gen Z’s have more of an ethic of sustainability, and they are on the receiving end of tens of trillions of dollars of inheritance. They want homes that are net zero, all electric, healthy, connected, resilient, and solar powered.” 

As the world experiences extreme temperatures, super storms, the increasing intensity and frequency of wildfires, flooding, and more, our communities and neighbors are suffering. More than 20% of millennials say that resiliency is one of the top elements they are considering when buying a home. 

“They see what’s happening,” Gutterman said. “56% think that we’re doomed. That’s not okay— this population believes in sustainability and wants to do good, but they aren’t hopeful.”

Building for Hope, with Love

“We’re beyond the point of debating why it’s happening. It’s happening,” Gutterman said. “It’s time to join together to talk about solutions and adopt solutions. You can use these systems to protect against extreme weather and increasing temperatures, keep our neighbors safe, and  protect our communities.”

“I really believe we protect what we love, and I love nature,” Gutterman continued. “As soon as I could walk, my dad put me on skis. I hiked 14-ers as a six year old. I was always meant to do this work. I am on the path and doing what I’m called to do. Green Builder Media is on the leading edge of sustainability in the built environment. We’ve been able to acquire a core of people regardless of their political inclinations and jurisdiction. They believe that green building and sustainability is the right thing to do, the smart and financially wise thing to do. We’re normalizing the language and not being afraid to talk about things.”

The parable of the builders occurs near the end of Matthew 7, as the conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount. Prior to it, Jesus commanded us to be the salt and light of the world, to lead the way with a message of life and truth, toward greater justice, mercy, hope, and love. He instructed us to go above and beyond “do no harm” to “do more good.” He showed us how to care for our neighbors, all of our neighbors. When it comes to building practices, this means advocating for construction that protects our families and our neighbors from the elements, high quality materials that will last generations, and building practices that respect and restore the planet so that it will remain habitable for generations to come.

“When we ‘other’ nature, we create a separation between ourselves, other creatures, and any other human beings,” said Gutterman. “This is a disservice to us. It disconnects us from our source.”

As Christians, we have this hope of connection—to God, to others, and to the world God created and called good. And we have hope for a new creation, of heaven and earth restored. Jesus was the first fruit of that new creation. Together as the body of Christ, we have the power, the purpose, and the mission to participate in the unfolding of that creation, to the very end of the age.

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