Call them eco-MacGyvers.
They’re more commonly known as AMC’s Construction Crew (CC), but these innovative troubleshooters easily can be compared to the television character famous for saving the day with quick thinking and unconventional solutions.
CC members have a long and storied reputation for inventive problem-solving whenever they’re handed a renovation or new-construction project at one of AMC’s destinations. And in addition to approaching things from a frugal Yankee perspective, they’re also committed to finding ways to reduce the environmental footprint of the organization’s huts and lodges, helping them sit lightly on the land.
Case in point: CC devised a way to capture waste heat from a walk-in refrigerator at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and use it to preheat water for washing.
Another: Installation of a micro-hydroelectric generator to provide fossil-fuel-free power to Zealand Falls Hut—an effective contraption resembling a metal version of the TV-hawked salad shooter.
AMC’s huts have long been models of off-the-grid innovation and energy efficiency. Guests at the huts this summer will notice additional photovoltaic arrays that significantly increase the amount of solar energy harvested and used to power hut lighting, radios, refrigeration, and emergency alert systems.
Those panels also power electric freezers. Propane had previously provided that juice. Construction Manager Charles Muller estimates the new arrangement saves as much as 100 gallons of propane per hut per year. Cost and fuel savings are also realized in a reduction of helicopter flights due to fewer propane deliveries.
CC member Seth Quarrier points out that much care is taken in making up supply loads to be flown to or from the huts to minimize the number of flights needed. “We work real hard to avoid mismatched loads on airlifts, and that saves money and fuel,” he says.
CC made additional fuel reductions at the huts this past year by replacing always-on-the-boil samovars of water with what Muller calls “robo-sammys” that are self-filling, insulated, and regulated by thermostat.
Insulation plays a big role in just about any construction project. When the Pinkham Trading Post building needed a new roof in 2012, CC used the opportunity to add foam insulation prior to shingling, thereby increasing the R-value to more than 30. Heat loss from the roof-chimney interface was remedied at the same time, saving heating fuel and eliminating troublesome ice dams.
Often, projects are primarily scheduled for structural or cosmetic reasons, but when there’s a chance to simultaneously reduce environmental impacts using renewable energy, CC members are on the job.
“The philosophy is to always be looking and probing and pushing the envelope,” says Muller. “We’ve done it here perpetually.”
Some years ago, to reduce water usage and wear and tear on Pinkham’s septic system, CC constructed a new restroom building housing composting toilets. The environmental benefits of composting toilets are also realized at six AMC huts, the Highland Center, and AMC’s Maine Wilderness Lodges, where they are also in place. (Topography and climate prevent their use at two above-treeline huts, which employ CC-designed waterless waste systems.)
The organization’s commitment to environmental sustainability is recognized by the New Hampshire Sustainable Lodging and Restaurant Program, which has certified AMC’s eight huts and three roadside lodges in the Granite State as Environmental Champions, the highest of three levels of certification.
In Maine, AMC’s Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins is a certified Maine Environmental Leader, and Gorman Chairback Lodge is registered with the national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
Saving green (in terms of dollars) while being green (by employing environmentally sensitive systems and practices) is all in a day’s work for AMC’s Construction Crew. “Our remote locations often provide that additional level of challenge that requires us to be resourceful and inventive. And if we can make environmental improvements, we make that part of the job,” says Muller. “It’s just the way we’ve done it for many, many years.”