20 years ago Charles Shaw got an amazing opportunity. He found out about an abandoned school in Durango, Colorado which was available for purchase. After a short discussion with his wife Lisa, they made a decision and bought a vacant property. The 45,000-square-foot old school made of solid brick was in poor shape, but Charles saw the potential to make his big dream come true. He always wanted to find a large abandoned building and turn it into a mixed-use space that could become a vibrant community.

His initial idea was to create a place for artists to come together. However, not everything was going as planned. First big issue was energy efficiency. Due to poor condition of the building and low energy efficiency Charles’ monthly utility bills were over $5,000. He switched the lighting to LED and built in motion sensors to control everything that can be controlled. He then set up the solar panels and now the utility bills are just $300 a month!

Once the school was remodeled, Charles and his whole family moved in, along with fellow artists and non-profits. They called the building the “Smiley Building” and it has soon become a landmark in Durango. It is perhaps the most efficient, energy-independent building of its kind in the entire country.