For local architect Matt Stais, sustainability is baked into his DNA. He grew up in a family that always kept vegetable gardens and composted. So, when he moved out to Summit County in 1991 (“just for the ski season”), he brought this ethos with him. And in 2001, he met Carly Weir and Kevin Berg, employees of what was then the Summit Recycling Project (SRP). At the time, SRP (which would later become HC3) was solely focused on recycling. But Carly, Kevin, and Matt excitedly agreed that the community needed to think about how to make buildings more sustainable.
This vision led Matt and several other Summit County representatives to the Teton Green Building conference in Jackson Hole in 2003. “The experience was a total turning point in my life and in my career,” reflects Matt. It was also a major catalyst for the community – Matt and other local stakeholders got together in summer 2005 to create the first-ever Summit Sustainable Building Code. And when HC3 led another stakeholder process to update the sustainable building code in 2018, Matt was back at the table.
“I want to make buildings with as small an environmental footprint as possible,” he shares. “Buildings use the majority of energy in Summit County and the U.S. If we can minimize that energy use, we should.” His own house, which he designed, was “a laboratory for passive and active solar design.” Matt’s got reason to care. He and wife Kiersten have two daughters – ages 18 and 15 – who are learning that they “can make the choice every day to love our planet and lessen our impact.” And just like Matt, they grew up gardening and composting.
Looking ahead, Matt’s excited to keep working with HC3 and his peers to raise the bar for sustainable building in our community. And he’s already walking the talk: Matt’s architecture firm has already designed a handful of net-zero energy buildings across the county.
“You know that book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?” he asks. There’s an analogy about a train – “you can either be in the engine looking forward, or on the caboose looking back. Leadership is looking ahead at where we want Summit County to be in 2030 – or 2050.”
“People talk about thinking globally and acting locally. We should. And the cool thing is, we can.”
To learn more about the many ways you can support HC3, visit HighCountryConservation.org.