RM’s efficiency, part 1

Posted by: Casey Adams on 12/9/11 6:40 AM

The scene outside NOLS Rocky Mountain (RM) is one of bitterly cold productivity. A pump attached to a loud truck rumbles away in the front yard, orange cones mark the trailer’s infringement on the lane, and thick ice fills the curb.

Inside, the location is a notch quieter, aside from NOLS Rocky Mountain Director Gary Cukjati chatting on the phone, his voice resonating into the front office. Three staff members sit in the office, half listening to Gary while they work.

Behind one door, Rihanna plays and the occasional bump or crash resonates through whatever space lies behind that door. Upon venturing past the through the front office and that mysterious door, one finds an undone office space—gutted and cold. What Gary sees in the ongoing construction is a future of efficiency.

“We knew we couldn’t do energy efficient upgrades without gutting it,” Gary said. “So this is a cleaner, tighter renovation.”

It includes everything from the ground-source heat pumps to a new electrical sub panel so the RM will no longer overload its electrical service. It includes green flooring, improved insulation, and space that will be better utilized. In a word, a more efficient RM.

This post will examine the improvements to energy efficiency in the building; the following post will take a look at the ways the space will become more efficient for staff, students, and the community.

The most obvious of the ongoing energy efficient installations is the two ground-source heat pumps, “a key piece of the upgrade.” They will heat both the renovation and the front office in a highly efficient manner. The two pumps require drilling a total of six holes of 240 feet. Each hole has required about a day and a half to drill.


Meanwhile, to the sounds of the Top 40, the interior of much of the building has been gutted. The walls will soon hold foam insulation, another means of increasing efficiency responsibly.

Natural light will flood much of the building, including the two walls on the corner of Fifth and Lincoln Streets where the debrief room will be located.

The food/rations operations will soon be able to boast a number of new efficiencies. More high windows like those shown below in the Gulch will allow for natural light without compromising food placed on counters.


An isolated food storage room will not have to be heated in the winter and will allow for more bulk and local (no shipping costs) purchases. To replace the stand-up freezers formerly used by the Gulch, a walk-in refrigerator with an interior walk-in freezer will be installed. This arrangement (which will be in the space shown below) will result in less loss of cold air each time the freezer door is opened.


NOLS was even efficient in managing the cost of the renovation; a significant portion of funding for the project comes from stimulus funds in the form of a $140,000 grant. NOLS is covering the remaining approximately $260,000.

This is only the beginning. The renovated RM will also allow staff, faculty, students, and the general public to be more efficient. Keep an eye out for the next post for more on that element of the RM’s efficiency.

Casey worked as a writer and PR specialist for NOLS.