Yellowstone Club’s – Headwaters Camp Awarded Residence of the Year

Yellowstone Club's - Headwaters Camp

Yellowstone Club’s – Headwaters Camp by Dan Joseph Architects

YELLOWSTONE CLUB’S – HEADWATERS CAMP #djawest : Based upon utilization of historic Architecture, respect for cultural heritage, outstanding natural beauty and the incorporation of sustainable design principals, a Western States Architect has designed Mountain Living’s ‘Most Responsible’ Residence of the Year. 

The project Headwaters Camp, located in Yellowstone Club – Big Sky, Montana “is carefully cradled in a world defined by the orderly needs of program and the random artistry of nature in the extreme,” says the architect Dan Turvey.  Set upon the edge in a series of ponds, streams and falls designed by Turvey, a rustic cabin appears to hover over the sparkling waters of a high mountain alpine lake.  “Developing our Master Plan on this 22 acre parcel from among others available was a critical decision made by the owner,” says Turvey.  “It wasn’t readily apparent that such potential existed on a site that lent itself more to limitations than an envisioned family encampment.”

Designing a structure in the Rockies at 8000 feet, proximate to Yellowstone National Park presents many challenges; including an active seismic zone, annual snow fall approaching 8’-0” and an underlying geology that must be considered well in advance to undertaking any formal response.  Within these constraints the Architect looked to the National Park and our collective early century architectural heritage for creative inspiration.  “The idea was to showcase and celebrate an enduring, regional vernacular that conveys strength, permanence and a sense of confidence amongst an overwhelming panorama of majestic mountains and weather extremes,” says Turvey.  “The added practical benefits of this vocabulary allowed us to seamless integrate moment frames, shear panels and a wide flange ridge beam, while also accenting the dwelling with rafter tails, reclaimed dimensional timber and log assemblies throughout a substantial structure.”

The difficulties of achieving energy efficiency in a rustic vocabulary, which by this example utilizes the appearance of dove-tailed, hand hewn, sand chinked timbers, dry stacked stone and old world planking, was accomplished with an artistic approach of applying materials to a conventional wood framed structure.  The final result is a modest sized, 1800 sf, rustic dwelling that reflects sustainable values that have been honored at the highest possible level by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

This LEED-Platinum designated home is the first in Southwest, Montana and the third home in the state to receive any certification from the USGBC.  “The vision for Headwaters was to create a family camp that feels and looks like it has existed for 100 years,” says owner Todd Thomson.  “I was also determined to build a home that reflects my values as an environmentalist and board member of the World Resources Institute.”

Yellowstone Club's - Headwaters Camp

Near view of Headwaters Camp – Guest Cabin

Photo Insert:  The Guest Cabin as seen from the near side of a high altitude pond, which provides for family enjoyment while serving as a thermal mass for a WSHP exchange loop.The primary axis of the structure aligns to a water feature and another towards a magnificent view of the nearby Pioneer Mountain located deep within the Madison Range. 

Notice how this home gently keys into the waters edge, complimenting the rustic structure’s connection to the landscape.  (Photos by Audrey Hall) 

“Really what makes this project so special was the commitment on behalf of all the parties to push Headwaters Camp to a level that currently has no equal” says Turvey.  “In the big picture of things, the end product is a reflection of an Owner’s exceptional vision and directive.” while adding “The contractors collective commitment and determination to make the mark cannot be understated; without the teams applied effort, certification would not have been possible.”

Dan Joseph Architects shares the true power of architecture with a breathtaking example of a modest sized, rustic dwelling that reflects sustainable values.

 Green Building

‘Green Building’ often evokes images of rectilinear like structures with clean, geometric lines. So how is it possible for a Rustic Cabin that appears to have been built decades before, to receive a LEED for Homes Platinum rating: a top designation for residences awarded by the United States Green Building Council?

Consider for one…that the Headwaters Camp – Guest Cabin is an original design and likely the most efficient ever built; for instance eliminating problems of uneven settlement, air and insect infiltration normally associated with buildings of this type, a fully insulated Chimney and Fireplace enclosure and a WSHP- Pond Loop sized for Cabin and Home alike.

 Design – Performance Accomplishments

 1.  Hidden Seismic and Live/Dead Load Engineering – Wide Flange Ridge Beam, Micro-lam Roof Framing, Moment Frame, Shear Panels and Shear Walls all disappearing seamlessly into a structure that appears to have been built 100 years earlier.

 2.  Applied Reclaimed Finishes – Eliminating Air and Insect Infiltration typically associated with Rustic Dwellings; utilizing Dove Tailed Timbers, Dry Stacked Stone, Standing Dead…Log Beams & Columns, Rustic Wall/Floor Planking, and Dimensional Rafters/Beams.

 3.  Unique fully insulated, tube steel framed Fireplace and Chimney, utilizing an Isokern Fire Box and Chimney Chase.

 4.  WSHP – Pond Loop, Radiant Flooring, Air Exchange Units, Grey Water Reclamation, etc.

 5.  Super Insulated Structure (combined closed cell spray foam and batt overlay) and Triple Glazed Window Units

 6.  Conventional wood framing at prescribed, increased spacing, saving material and money

 7.  Over 100 – third party certified points in the designation of LEED Platinum.

Celebrate the universal capacity of Good Planning and Outstanding Design with Dan Joseph Architects

Regardless of vernacular, the principals of ‘Green’ building still apply; with DJA…Rustic and Western Design can now share in the same positive attributes that other environmentally responsible buildings enjoy; fostering sustainable building practice as a good steward of our natural resources.

 Yellowstone Club’s – Headwaters Camp:

 ‘Single Source’ Professional Services provided by Dan Joseph Architects

Construction Administration and Oversight · Site Master Planning: Building Envelopes, Aquatic Design (Ponds and Streams) · Infrastructure and Site Access Planning · Civil Engineering Coordination · Geothermal WSHP Engineering Coordination · Building Design – Schematics, Design Development, Construction Docs: Cabin, Horse Barn and Primary Residence · Structural Engineering Coordination · Architectural Review Committee submittals · Mass Modeling and all other related Professional Service tasking for this outstanding and unique High Mountain encampment.

Todd & Melissa Thomson
Headwaters Capital: Todd Thomson Walks the Walk

Project  Location  Yellowstone Club – Big Sky, MT

Architect & Construction Administrator
Dan Joseph Architects – Big Sky, Montana

Architect’s Consulting Engineers
Civil:  Allied Engineering – Bozeman, MT
Structural:  Bridger Engineers – Bozeman, MT
Geothermal:  Major Geothemal – Wheat Ridge, CO
Solar:  Independent Power Systems – Bozeman, MT

LEED Consultant    Kath Williams – Bozeman, MT

General Contractor
Highline Partners – Big Sky, MT

Interiors  Carole Sisson Design – Big Sky, MT

Photos by Audrey Hall


Todd Thomson Hosts Montana State University – U.S. Green Building Council


Todd Thomson Hosts Montana State University – U.S. Green Building Council Annual Summit

Montana State University School of Architecture, College of Engineering and Licensed Practicing Professionals were recently extended an opportunity to view and experience a best-in-class, LEED Platinum residence located in Big Sky, Montana.  A well-known, picturesque, iconic Cabin has transformed how people view our natural world and construction practice everywhere, and was the focus of an exclusive one day event hosted by Mr. Thomson.

Todd S. Thomson is the Chairman of Dynasty Financial Partners, accomplished global practitioner and adviser of mergers, acquisitions & investments; serving as a Board Member of the World Resource Institute, and advocate of strategies and practice that have a real time impact on health, while promoting responsible, clean energy use.

Project Architect, Dan Turvey of Dan Joseph Architects states “It is befitting that America’s most admired, small home is also located where environmental responsibility is advocated above all else”.

Learn more about the U.S. Green Building Council – Montana Chapter by visiting  #djawest

LEED the way . . . a snap shot of USGBC Certification

LEED the way...a snap shot of USGBC Certification

Headwaters Camp – Horse Barn, Big Sky, Montana

LEED the way…a snap shot of USGBC Certification:  The built response has a significant impact on our quality of life, the natural world, health, economy and productivity. Consistently, new building means and methods, technologies and equipment are available to architects and owners alike who want to build in a responsible manner; benefiting from economic and environmental performance.

The US Green Building Council utilizing a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification program has rapidly transformed the old way of building structures into a celebration of performance based achievement. Through a process of third-party verification, a long list of completed tasks are assigned a point value that upon tabulation, will recognize the structure as either Certified, Silver, Gold or the highest achievement Platinum. Credits towards certification are earned in each of the following categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Innovative Design, and others depending on your building use and designation.


So exactly what is the next step for those desiring LEED Certification? It actually begins with a commitment from the owner; in the big picture of things the owner makes all things possible. Next…your architect needs to think critically while delivering good passive techniques, planning and design for high performance standards. No less important are the buildings support systems, including state-of-the-art HVAC, lighting, controls and other technologies that will improve the performance of your structure.

Concurrently and during the design phase of service, your architect will assist you with the selection and engagement of a Certified LEED Consultant or Provider. Providers play a very important role in the over-all process, which unfortunately at times are quickly forgotten upon making the mark. As third-party verifiers, it is very important that the Provider be contractually accountable to the owner only, not the architect or contractor; allowing for unbiased reviews of the completed work that will be documented and shared with the owner and the USGBC. Additionally, Providers offer over the shoulder review of evolving design and later contribute critical direction during the construction process. Lastly, your contractor must competently execute the plans and the various lists of assignments required to successfully meet the objectives.

It is important to note that registration, use and access of the “Final Check List” are controlled by the owner; again…not the contractor, architect or even the USGBC; so make sure that the final registration is in the owner’s name exclusively.


While it is easy to over-simplify the process, achieving LEED Certification is a commitment whose thread can be traced from concept to completion, requiring months or years of diligence. As we move towards Net-Zero Buildings, the USGBC–LEED program has cleared a path for sustainable practice and continued reform for much of the built environment. Utilizing LEED criteria, energy codes and modern building efficiency standards, Dan Joseph Architects is ready to assist you with LEED Certification. Give us a call…


1. Construction means and methods, technologies and equipment are constantly being updated.

2. LEED Certification for new projects is available through a process of third-party verification of completed tasks.

3. Your architect needs to think critically while delivering good passive techniques, planning and design for high performance standards.

4. As third-party verifiers, it is very important that the Provider be contractually accountable to the owner only, not the architect or contractor.

5. Contractors must competently execute plans and the various lists of assignments required to successfully meet objectives.

6. Registration, use and access of the “Final Check List” are controlled by the owner…not the contractor, architect or even the USGBC; so make sure that the final registration is in the owner’s name exclusively.

7. The USGBC–LEED program has cleared a path for sustainable practice and continued reform for much of the built environment. #djawest