Colorado Net-Zero Home Is Ready to Weather the Elements

Nestled just outside of Boulder, Colorado, the city of Longmont is rich in natural beauty, finely balanced with the modern conveniences that residents demand. The city enjoys the weather Colorado is known for – nice warmer months with a snow season that excites skiers from all over the world.

Those fortunate enough to own a home in Longmont often protect the environment in which they live. And perhaps because of the natural abundance that Colorado boasts, the state is leading the way in integrating solar energy into housing. Indeed, in 2004, Colorado passed the country’s first voter-led Renewable Energy Standard (RES), which requires electricity providers to source a minimum percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. The state’s goal is to use 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2040. Strict energy regulations are nothing new to builders like Sopris Homes of Colorado. The client has been building high-performance luxury properties for more than two decades.

The finished roof system comprises 229 solar tiles with an output of 68 watts per tile. Photos: CertainTeed

According to John Stevens, President of Sopris Homes, “As more communities want and even need solar energy to build new homes, it becomes an increasing challenge for home builders to find solar products that are both functional and attractive. In some areas we are required to use solar energy. In other areas it is a choice. Most people do not voluntarily pay for solar energy when building their new home because it is not seen as an aesthetic improvement for most. “

When Stevens accepted the construction of a 5,510-square-foot, five-bedroom, net-zero home in Longmont’s Portico Lane subdivision, he knew solar energy would be a mandatory part of the project. But for this high-end neighborhood, it was important that aesthetics not be sacrificed. And because of the Colorado weather, the roofing materials had to be strong enough to withstand heavy snow loads and extreme temperature fluctuations. Concrete tiles were chosen for the primary roofing because it can withstand the elements of nature without any problems, but a decision still had to be made about the solar components.

After some research, Sopris Homes decided on the Apollo Tile II solar roof system from CertainTeed, which is integrated in concrete tiles, making it the first project of its kind in the state of Colorado. Unlike traditional rack and panel solar applications, Apollo bricks are flat and designed to seamlessly integrate into concrete or asphalt roofs. The solar tiles create a seamless and inconspicuous appearance that serves both as a roof system and as an energy source. While attractive, Apollo tiles are also strong enough to handle heavy snow loads. Their design allows them to absorb a wide variety of temperature extremes without the risk of contraction or expansion.

The finished roof system comprised 229 solar tiles, each with an output of 68 watts per tile. “I am not aware of anything like this on the market here,” said Stevens, referring to integrated solar systems in concrete tiles. “You benefit from the savings in solar energy generation and do not have to forego aesthetics.”

The result was a double success. The project was recognized by the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) for a residential project under 10 kilowatts. And the homeowner got the benefit of a net zero home without sacrificing the attractiveness of the home.


Builder: Sopris Homes, Boulder, Colorado,


Solar tiles: Apollo Tile II, CertainTeed,

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