A Whiter Shade of Green: Aging in Place, Sustainability

Last September, as Boulder, Colorado, architect David Barrett was wheeled into surgery on his ruptured Achilles tendon, the skies opened up over his hometown. Days of rain followed, and among the havoc wrought through the foothills and city, the 100-year flood filled Barrett’s North Boulder rental house with a foot and a half of mud and water.

“It was an old house, and an energy hog,” Barrett says of the damaged property. By demolishing the building and starting fresh, he and his architect wife Betzi would pursue “an idea we had talked about for a number of years—that a house could become a tool in the process of aging, rather than an albatross.”

Recovering from surgery in the Barretts’ full-time home, David designed the project through the lens of his own limited mobility. “I understood ADA and accessibility, but using crutches or a knee scooter to get around is an experiential education that beats all,” he says. Known as Zoomerhouse, the 2,532-square-foot residence was completed earlier this fall, and it has been open to potential buyers and education groups since then.