When it came to designing Bigfork’s Saddlehorn development, one of Gesine Thomson’s main goals was to keep it simple.
“We wanted to get back to simple houses where people actually have to deal with each other,” said Thomson, a Los Angeles-based architect and the visionary behind Saddlehorn. “When you live a simple life, it is much more enjoyable.”
That commitment to simplicity went hand-in-hand with a commitment to environmentally friendly building, Thomson said.
“In my projects, I always put in the HSF factor — health, safety and fun,” Thomson said. “If you take that as a base, you create something that is so different from everything else. Saddlehorn has this factor big time.”
Thomson said the project’s idealistic foundation is what separates it from other developments.
“The Saddlehorn project stands out even in a time of difficulty in real estate because people feel that the intention is well-being,” she said.
On July 1, Saddlehorn project leaders were recognized by members of the U.S. Green Building Council for attaining high ratings in the organization’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification system.
The Saddlehorn marina achieved a gold rating, and the development’s welcome house received a platinum rating. Those ratings represent the two highest levels of LEED certification.
The system awards points based on factors such as energy efficiency, environmental impact and use of recycled materials.
Following green building guidelines is especially challenging when a construction site is located next to an aquatic habitat, Thomson said.
“This (the marina) was not easy to get gold because water is involved, so this is a proud achievement for Saddlehorn,” Thomson said.
Kath Williams, the former president of the World Green Building Council, also attended the awards presentation. Williams has been involved with the USGBC since its establishment in the early 1990s.
“It takes a team to build a green structure. You need everybody working together,” Williams said. “This has been a major accomplishment. It wasn’t easy.”
According to Williams, only about 20 percent of buildings in the United States meet the requirements for LEED certification.
“LEED will never be code. It will never be the average building,” Williams said. “It wasn’t designed that way.”
Also at the awards ceremony, Bigfork Stormwater Advisory Committee chairman Sue Hanson presented Saddlehorn with a stewardship award on behalf of BSAC.
The committee presents the award annually to a local resident, business or organization that has excelled in the reduction of water pollution.
“Saddlehorn has one of the most far-reaching designs for stormwater in the state,” Hanson said. “There is no question that Saddlehorn is an exemplary example for other developers to follow.”