By Kay Nettles
For most of Alpen’s history, it remained a smaller company. It has known a few changes since being founded by Robert Clarke in 1981, such as being sold to Brad Begin in 2006, then briefly changing hands again in 2008 before Begin re-purchased it back in 2012.
All along though, Alpen’s focus has been unwavering on perfecting a unique combination of high-performance insulating glass along with a fiberglass framing system, all created right here in Colorado. The result is what Begin describes as, “to our knowledge, the highest performing, most insulating windows manufactured in North America.”
Alpen’s list of prestigious projects corroborates this proclamation. During its brief ownership by Serious Materials in 2009 it was chosen to re-glaze all 6,514 windows in the entire Empire State Building, and later to replace all the glass on the building’s iconic observation floors.
The Packard foundation, completed in 2012 and named the largest Net Zero Energy and LEED Platinum building in California, used Alpenglass™ powered by Heat Mirror® for the glazing of all its window systems. The Rocky Mountain Institute Innovation Center in Basalt, a 15,600 square foot LEED building completed at the end of 2015 and named the ‘most energy-efficient building in the coldest climate zone in North America,’ also installed Alpenglass™ throughout.
Over the last two years, Alpen has more than doubled its sales, increased its work force to more than 60 employees, moved to a much larger production space, and has begun expanding its product offering to include additional, complimentary building products.
“The company is really starting to hit its stride,” says Begin.
Alpen now ships its products internationally, but such accolades and immense growth have not altered its sense of scale or of being firmly rooted in Boulder County.
“We are very proud to be associated with RMI’s new headquarters in Basalt. And we’re just as proud of replacing our neighbor’s windows down the street as we are of any high-profile project we’ve done. We are just as concerned with middle America and mainstream needs,” says Begin.
Part of the reason to remain centered here is certainly economic—there are plenty of clients available in close range. Approximately 30 percent of Alpen’s sales are within a 500-mile radius of its Niwot-based facility. But the company also takes its role in the community very seriously, and feels its particular location in Colorado has been key to its success.
“This climate really puts our products to the test. We’ve been really, really fortunate to have a high-quality group of employees who are passionate about sustainability and building materials. And to be in a mecca of a very progressive group of builders, designers, and consumers—these are the things that have helped support us,” says Begin.
He also credits the local universities, utilities, and businesses that were early adopters of Alpen’s leading-edge technology.
That technology, now fully vetted and internationally recognized, is now becoming the foundation for an expansion. Alpen is getting ready to introduce some new products, including high performance doors, framing materials, and building shell components in an integrated system. “So many products are just too complicated,” notes Begin, who wants to offer more synergy to builders.
If that seems like a tall order, the company named Colorado Green Building Guild’s 2015 Pioneer, seems up to the challenge. “We have some projects coming up later this year that help support more new, innovative thinking,” says Begin.
And Alpen welcomes the community, from school children to university and technical students, to casually interested citizens or neighbors, to visit its manufacturing facility in Niwot to see the magic first hand, anytime.