Home on the Range
In 2003, Northern Plains and the Western Organization of Resource Councils purchased a vacant, concrete block building constructed in 1940 as a grocery store. With the help of High Plains Architects, Hardy Construction Company and many generous volunteers, we transformed one of the most blighted properties in Billings, Montana into a working demonstration of “green” building strategies and technologies.
In 2007, Home on the Range was the first building in Montana and the 41st in the United States to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification, the highest award given by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Our building was designed to maximize daylighting. Three sets of clerestories and north-facing windows on the roof allow daylight into the middle of the building. Windows with light shelves on inner and outer walls reduce glare and distribute daylight throughout the interior. We have LED bulbs inside as well as outside to minimize energy consumption when the lights are on.
Radiant heating circulates hot water through tubes in the concrete floor. This effectively eliminates drafts by warming the building’s contents and occupants rather than the air. The evaporative cooling system moves warm air across a wet surface, cooling the air as the water evaporates. This type of cooling uses only 25% as much energy as conventional air conditioning. Solar hot water is used for hot water needs.
Home on the Range makes more electricity than it uses! During the initial building renovation, a 10kW photovoltaic array was installed on the roof. That array produced approximately one third of the building’s annual energy consumption. In 2016, an additional 24kW array was installed over the parking lot, which allows us to generate more electricity than we use!
The building is wrapped in four inches of rigid foam insulation and covered with fiberboard. Additional insulation on the roof, windows, and sub-floor reduce heat loss. Overall, the building uses one-fifth of the energy of a similar-sized building.
Landscaping featuring native and water-wise vegetation significantly reduces irrigation demand in the semi-arid climate.
Approximately 92% of our construction and demolition waste was kept out of the landfill through recycling. Innovative recycled materials were used throughout the building. Sunflower seed hulls became countertops and desktops, and wheat board was used for kitchen cupboards and in desks. To reduce energy use and support local businesses, materials were purchased from businesses within a 500-mile radius whenever possible. Many volunteers and staff devoted hours and days to refurbishing century-old doors and wood molding from the old freezer walls.