Nearly 20 years ago, Charles Shaw seized an amazing opportunity. In 1996, he and his wife Lisa bought an abandoned, vacant high school in Durango, Colorado. The 45,000-square-foot building was in poor shape, but its walls were solid brick. Charles saw the potential to make a long-time dream come true: to turn a large building into a mixed-use space that could become a vibrant community.
At first, Charles envisioned a place for artists to come together. Over time and out of necessity, energy efficiency became another big issue. After all, the monthly utility bills costed him over $5,000. So, he switched all of the lighting over to LED and began controlling ventilation through motion sensors. All of the building’s electricity comes from solar panels. Now, the utility bills are just $300 a month!
Charles, Lisa and their young son live there, along with fellow artists and non-profits. Today, the “Smiley Building” has become a landmark in Durango. It is perhaps the most efficient, energy-independent building of its kind in the entire country.
After seeing the inside of the school (and especially the kitchen), I must admit… I wouldn’t mind moving in myself!