Last updated 1:08AM ET
December 14, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Smiley Building Off the Grid!
(2007-04-24)
Charles Shaw stands next to one of the two solar arrays now on the roof of the Smiley Building in Downtown Durango. (Photo: Victor Locke, KSUT)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: A Durango business couple is doing more than talking about going green.
They're doing it.
In fact they may have scored a first in the green movement.
KSUT's Victor Locke reports.

(NAT SOUND)
Lisa Bodwalk warms up her ballet students in the studio at Durango's downtown Smiley building.
What makes her studio different from others is the fact the electricity lighting the studio and powering her music is totally produced on site.
While she teaches class, her husband Charles Shaw is usually busy tackling another projects as he works to restore the 71 year old building.
SHAW: EVERYTHING, RESTORING THE WINDOWS, RESTORING A LOT OF THE MASONRY, REFINISHING ALL THE FLOORS, NEW ROOF, ENTIRE NEW ELECTRICAL SYSTEM, ENTIRELY NEW HEATING SYSTEM, SOME NEW PLUMBING, PAINTING THE ENTIRE PLACE, RESTORING THE THEATRE, GETTING A STAGE LIGHT SYSTEM.
Shaw, who describes himself as a contractor, moved from Berkley California to Durango in the mid 90's.
In 1997, he and his wife bought the 45 thousand square foot Junior High School with an eye on turning it into a community art and education center with, what at the time was a peculiar twist.
SHAW: I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE THIS BUILDING AS GREEN AS IT CAN BE, MAKE AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH ALTERNATIVE ENERGY, AND ONE DAY WE'D LIKE TO BE NOT USING ANY FOSSIL FUELS.
Shaw calls his vision a challenge of epic proportions, the biggest he's ever undertaken.
And a lot of people told him he was crazy taking on the building.
SHAW: I DIDN'T REALLY SAY ANYTHING, I JUST DID IT. SO HOW FAR ALONG ARE YOU IN THE REBIRTH OF THIS BUILDING? WE'RE JUST GETTING STARTED. THIS IS DEFINITELY A LIFETIME PROJECT FOR ME. WE HAVE A LOT OF PLANS, WE'RE GONNA DO A CAFE, WE'RE DOING AN ORGANIC GARDEN OUT IN FRONT. WE DON'T EVEN KNOW ALL THE PLANS THAT ARE GOING TO COME UP, JUST KNOW THERE'S A LOT, IT'S EVOLVING ALL THE TIME.
Shaw estimates he's put 1-million dollars into the building since he bought it 10 years ago.
His dreams reached a milestone in March when the building officially came off the electrical grid
SHAW: WE'VE SPENT ABOUT 200-THOUSAND DOLLARS ON SOLAR EQUIPMENT, THAT'S NOT INCLUDING OUR LABOR TO INSTALL IT AND IT'S RUNNING THE ENTIRE BUILDING. ABOUT 280 SOLAR PANELS AND IT'S 44 KILOWATTS OF PHOTOVOLTAICS ON THE ROOF. THE AMOUNT OF ELECTRICITY WE USE IN THIS BUILDING IS ABOUT TEN PERCENT OF A COMPARABLE BUILDING THIS SIZE.
SHAW: THE BUILDING'S DESIGNED PERFECTLY FOR SOLAR.
While showing me the arrays of solar panels on the roof, Shaw said the Smiley building is now believed to be the only building of its size and type in the country that makes all it's own electricity.
The panels have reduced his $600 monthly electric bill to nothing.
Combine that with solar energy credits he receives from Excel Energy, 25-cents per kilowatt hour, and he makes enough each month to pay the mortgage on the solar panels.
And, in case you're wondering, I did personally checked it out.
The power meter indeed spins backwards, when the sun's out. The day I visited an occasional cloud passed by, and the meter stopped or reverse directions.
A woodburning heater and solar thermal system providing radiant floor heat on the buildings street level, combined with hundreds of compact flourescent light bulbs, new windows and doors, motion sensors and other energy saving steps have all helped to nearly eliminate the 5-thousand dollars in monthly utility bills Shaw once paid.
SHAW: MOST OF THE SAVINGS THAT WE'VE REALIZED HERE ARE FROM VERY SIMPLE TECHNOLOGIES THAT EVERYONE CAN DO IN THEIR HOUSE.
He hopes a geo thermal heat pump, perhaps powered by even more solar panels, will eventually eliminate his natural gas bill.
His plans include redeveloping more of the building into five residential units and a dozen more office and studio spaces.
When his wife Lisa's not instructing ballet classes, she's his business partner, who along with other staff, dream with Shaw of ways to use and improve Smiley as a symbol of greenness.
BODWALK: IT'S DEFINITELY A WORK IN PROGRESS, IT'S OKAY BEING A WORK IN PROGRESS, BEING COMFORTABLE WITH THAT.
SHAW: WE'RE DOING THINGS NOW THAT WE DIDN'T PLAN ON DOING WHEN WE BOUGHT THE BUILDING AND WHO KNOWS WHAT IDEAS WE'RE GOING TO COME UP WITH IN THE FUTURE. I DON'T WANT TO BE DONE, THIS IS MY JOB, I'D BE OUT OF A JOB....WE'RE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR SUGGESTIONS.
From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.


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