Headwaters Camp - Big Sky, Montana

Headwaters Camp - Big Sky, Montana LEED Certified PlatinumThe primary ambition of the project was to preserve and protect the natural environment of the site while tastefully introducing rustic structures in a sustainable manner.  The site is a 22-acre wooded parcel with a 1900 square foot cabin, aquatic development, and a trail system connecting to existing trails for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking.

Strategies & Results

The combination of alternative energy systems and a very efficient building envelope decrease the project’s carbon footprint while producing dramatic energy savings.  A 2-kW solar array provides electricity for the site and any remaining is sold directly to the local electric company.  

The aquatic development ponds are designed for aesthetics, recreational activities such as ice skating and fly fishing, and energy production, serving as the thermal mass required for the geothermal heating system, producing all of the heat necessary to keep the cabin’s occupants cozy on the coldest Montana nights. Triple glazed windows, super insulation with R-values exceeding 49 in the roof and 25 in the exterior walls, and an insulated conditioned crawl space collectively contribute to the extremely tight building envelope, surpassing the Energy Star for Homes standard by 73%. 

A waste reduction strategy encompassing proactive planning, recycling and innovative uses of project waste allowed the diversion of 41% of construction waste and 100% of the site tree clearing from landfills. This strategy was implemented early with efficient takeoffs and framing concepts designed to reduce waste by 10% before construction even began. Five thousand one hundred eighty pounds of cardboard and steel were recycled, and 290 tons of chipped trees were taken to a nearby agricultural facility to provide fuel for the plant’s electricity demands.  Additional trees taken down within the building envelope and for fire mitigation efforts were used as a unique log skin roof with the remainder donated to local families to heat their homes.

The lot is over 70% permeable and only native and drought tolerant plants have been introduced to the site decreasing the demand for irrigation. The home is outfitted with dual flush toilets, very efficient water fixtures and a grey-water reuse system which will be used to further decrease the landscape irrigation demand.  The appliances are all Energy Star rated.   Local, reclaimed and recycled materials are utilized throughout and low VOC finishes contribute to the home’s high indoor air quality.  Constant fresh air is provided by the homes air exchange system, ensuring clean Montana air to breathe.

Team Members

Architect: Dan Joseph Architects
Commissioning Agent: Randy Hansell, Earth Advantage Institute
Contractor: Highline Partners, Ltd.
Interior Designer: Carol Sisson Designs
LEED Consultant: Kath Williams & Associates
Owner: Todd and Melissa Thomson
Structural Engineer: Bridger Engineering