Beyond the Blueprints: Mike Riggs Takes on the Pikes Peak Ascent

Welcome to Beyond the Blueprints, where we get to know RTA staff beyond their work lives. Join us in discovering the passions and interests of our amazing team!

In this issue, we hear from Associate Principal Mike Riggs and get his thoughts on his first attempt at grueling trek that is the Pikes Peak Ascent, a trail running competition that begins at the base of Pikes Peak, in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and climbs over 7,815 feet to the top of the 14,115-foot Pikes Peak.

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  1. Is this the first time you’ve done the Ascent?

Yes. While I have hiked up Barr Trail, ridden the Cog Railway, hiked down the Barr trail with my family, and drove to the summit every week over the last three years to oversee the construction of the Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center, this is the first time I have attempted to run the Ascent.

  1. Why do you run?

I run to stay healthy, for decompression, and so that I can enjoy all the other activities that make Colorado a special place like skiing, hiking, paddle boarding, and mountain biking.

  1. How did you train for this event?

When I first moved here in 2002, I heard about the Ascent and thought that would be a cool thing to do. As the years passed, I realized I was getting older and it wasn’t going to get any easier. I really started training three years ago to complete a qualifying half marathon time. I had intended to do the ascent in 2020, but the race was cancelled due to the pandemic. That allowed me more training time, which was a good thing.

We are fortunate to have great parks and trails in Colorado Springs with easy access to Bear Creek Park, Monument Valley/Pikes Peak Greenway/Santa Fe Trail, Red Rocks Open Space, the Incline, and Cheyenne Canyon. With abundant trail options I try to squeeze in 30 to 50 miles per week. My kids will occasionally join me on their mountain bikes when I run on more tame trails.

  1. How do you stay motivated?

My daily focus on the tremendous push to finish Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center project over the last 18 months, given the weather and COVID-related delays the project faced, was an ever-present reminder of the challenges of the mountain. Running helps me decompress, so training for the Ascent was a really great thing for my mental health.

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  1. What is your thought process like during the run?

During the Ascent, it is really easy to get caught up in the moment and another person’s race. I tried to keep MY goals in mind, focus on specific segments of the race, and listen to my body. Like most runners, I try to remind myself of why I am running and my goals. Without those it is really easy to lose focus and your drive.

  1. How does your career in architecture relate to your life as a runner?

Running and architecture are as much about the process as they are about the end product.  Running trails is a chance to enjoy a good sunrise or an unexpected Colorado view as much as reaching a finish line. Similarly, the process of working with a group through the unexpected iterations of the design and construction process provides as much joy as seeing the initial construction and creating places for the enjoyment of the masses.

Being an architect requires an attention to detail, strategizing, keeping a broad perspective, and endurance of relentless rigor. Paying attention to your body, knowing when to slow down or run hard, and the ability to push through to an ultimate goal parallel very well to being an architect.

I have learned over the past six years how Pikes Peak is unique and exceptionally challenging.  The Ascent was a great capstone and also an embodiment of those challenges.

  1. Are there any other races you plan to run?

I will be attempting a 55k trail run in Crested Butte at the beginning of October. It will be another unique challenge.

Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center Living Building Challenge Video Series: Energy

"If you can do it on Pikes Peak, you can do it anywhere."

The new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center goes to unprecedented lengths to conserve and create its own energy. Learn more about some of the techniques used to power this incredible building and the fourth petal of the Living Building Challenge… Energy.

Newton Middle School Celebrates Grand Opening

What better than a beautiful Friday evening for the ribbon cutting and grand-opening ceremony for the new middle school facility for Littleton Public Schools. The 160,000-sf replacement for Newton Middle School was part of the 2018 Bond program. Designed with student centric learning in mind, this school features classroom pods with flex breakout spaces, a learning stair, maker spaces, a cafetorium, outdoor learning spaces, and professional development spaces for LPS teachers. The design also includes space for the District’s NOVA and BEST programs which serve K-12 students with special social and emotional needs and students with autism. Read more about this great project here.

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Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center Living Building Challenge Video Series: Water

"Water is life, especially here in Colorado."

The new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center is only the second location in Colorado to incorporate a wastewater recycling system. Learn more about how the new Summit Visitor Center is pioneering this technique to conserve and reuse this precious resource and the third petal of the Living Building Challenge… Water.

Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center Living Building Challenge Video Series: Place

“The mountain was not to be conquered. The environment was not an adversary. It was something to try and respond to.”

In part 2 of the video series “Our Road to Sustainability,” RTA Principal Stuart Coppedge and RTA Associate Principal Mike Riggs discuss how the strategic placement of the new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center was crucial to maintaining and working with the natural environment at the 14,000-foot summit of Pikes Peak. Learn more about the first element, or petal, of the Living Building Challenge… Place.

RTA Sponsors Harrison School District 2 Golf Tournament

We were very excited to support Harrison School District 2 and sponsor their annual golf tournament.  Great day at Arrowhead Golf Club!

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Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center Living Building Challenge Video Series

"Our Road to Sustainability"

Video #1: Introduction

The new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center is the most sustainable high-altitude structure in the country, if not the world. It is designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification, a globally recognized symbol of sustainable design and is also striving to achieve Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification, a two-year certification process for highly sustainable net positive buildings. Currently, no other buildings in the state of Colorado are fully LBC certified.

Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain has launched a multipart video series called, “Our Road to Sustainability” that explains the seven performance areas, or petals, of the LBC; elements of which are integrated into the design and operation of the Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center. The series includes commentary from USDA Forest Service representatives; Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain project managers; designers from RTA Architects; project leaders from GE Johnson; Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers; and other stakeholders.

Join us for the LBC video series that answers the question, “What if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place?” and to learn more the sustainable elements of this incredible project!

Sprouts Farmers Market Coming to South Nevada Avenue's Creekwalk

Arizona-based healthy living grocery Sprouts Farmers Market will be adding a fourth location in Colorado Springs adjacent to the new Creekwalk shopping center, also designed by RTA, on South Nevada Avenue. This 23,646 square foot Sprouts is part of a bigger effort to transform the area into a prosperous retail and tourist destination and we’re thrilled to be involved in both of these exciting projects.

The newest Sprouts location is expected to open in the fall of 2022. Learn more about Creekwalk here.

Sprouts CS Gazette Render 2021.09.01

Peak Vista Health Center Downtown Breaks Ground

What a great start to the week! We were excited to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Peak Vista Health Center Downtown with Peak Vista leadership, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, and the Springs Rescue Mission.

With expected completion in Q1 2022, the new health center will serve residents experiencing homelessness in the Downtown Colorado Springs area. It will also be an expansion of Peak Vista’s whole-person, family health center model, providing medical, dental, social support, and behavioral health services in a patient-centered accessible design. Read more about Peak Vista Health Center Downtown here.


 Crew Lightened 

RTA's Mike Riggs takes on the Ascent

RTA cheered our own Mike Riggs as he took on the Pikes Peak Marathon & Ascent, one of the oldest continually held half-marathons in the US. Beginning in Manitou Springs, more than 1400 runners made their way up to the summit of Pikes Peak in this year’s Ascent. The 13.3-mile race climbs about 7,800 vertical feet, making it a grueling uphill battle.

This was Mike’s first Ascent, and his time placed him in the top 26% of all runners in this year’s race! Way to go Mike!!

Follow our page for a full interview with Mike and how his work as Project Architect and Construction Administrator for the new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center provided him with years of “on-the-job-training” for this challenging event.

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