In this study, we asked how the ability to use multiple transportation options affects one's subjective wellbeing (SWB), including aspects such as physical health, financial security, standard of living, and personal relationships. We draw on 232 surveys from a diverse set of residents in the Denver, Colorado metropolitan area and find that having more transportation choices can improve standard of living for low- and middle-income residents. These multimodal middle-income residents are also more satisfied with their health and what they are achieving in life. Vehicle owners report higher levels of satisfaction with their standard of living, health, and achievements, compared to non-owners, unless auto is their only travel mode. Only low-income respondents had significant differences in standard of living by where they lived, with greatest satisfaction in the urban core. These results confirm the relationship between public transit and SWB, and contribute to our understanding of how the concept of motility (social and spatial mobility) shapes one's quality of life. The findings have implications for investments in transportation modes across neighborhood types and populations, so that people have a range of travel options to meet their needs and increase their satisfaction with their goals through improved daily travel. A clearer understanding of these associations can inform investments in multimodal infrastructure.
For many years, planners and sociologists have sought to determine what shapes immigrant integration, or the dynamic, two-way process in which newcomers and the receiving society work and adapt together. “Context of reception,” or the combination of opportunities and challenges that shape acceptance into a host society, profoundly shapes immigrant integration. Glaringly absent from studies on context of reception, however, is a focus on whether and how the design of the built environment might affect immigrant inclusion and exclusion. In this project, we ask how the spatial qualities of communities can create positive contexts of reception for recent immigrants. Eight undergraduate and graduate students from the geography, public health, sociology, and urban and regional planning programs will conduct 300-400 surveys of first-generation immigrants in a number of neighborhoods across the Denver metro area. This collaborative project makes several contributions to research on these subjects: a) it introduces a key spatial-analytical construct for immigration scholars in urban planning and sociology, b) it recognizes the important role that professional planners and designers can play in building more inclusive and integrative spaces for immigrant populations, c) it helps nonprofits, policymakers, and other state actors advocate for better urban design and built environment improvements in existing and potential arrival neighborhoods, and d) it benefits immigrants by foregrounding the notion that “place matters” for immigrant integration.
in collaboration with DesignBuildBLUFF at the University of Utah
The Raine House was constructed for Lorraine “Raine” Toney, a Navajo and single mother of five children.
Lorraine had to travel an hour to get to work, a tough drive through the desert. Her children lived so far from school that they were forced to board on the campus. The boarding house situation has classically torn apart families on the reservation and this was Lorraine’s worst fear. She needed a place to live, closer to work, closer to school, a place to raise her children. When the students asked what she wanted from the project she said only two words, a home.
The home is constructed primarily of thermally broken slow pour concrete. This concrete along with the concrete slab helps collect the sun’s rays and maintain a year round internal temperature between 62-82 degrees Fahrenheit (17-27 degrees Celsius). Interior sliding panels cover the glass curtain wall in the evening, providing an additional R-12 insulation. During the day they nest along the walls in the living room.
In 2016 the Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS), a not-for-profit organization focusing on outdoor education, continued its partnership with University of Colorado Denver’s ColoradoBuildingWorkshop. This second group of 28 students designed and built seven insulated cabins for year-round use. The cabins were intertwined within the same village housing boundaries as the 14 seasonal cabins constructed in 2015; deep within a lodgepole pine forest, 10,000 feet above sea level, and accessible only by a narrow dirt road.
Students were required to conduct a critical architectural inquiry into materiality, structure, light, context, environment, and program to create innovative solutions to prefabricated, accelerated-build, micro housing. Each 200 square foot cabin was required to house one or two residences and be powered by a single electrical circuit. The circuit provides lighting, heating and a series of receptacles with the capacity to charge technology and small appliances (mini refrigerators, teakettles, coffee pots, etc). A central staff lodge is accessible to the residences for bathing, cooking, and laundry.
With an average annual temperature of 35o Fahrenheit the seven all-season structures were required to meet the standards of the International Energy Conservation Code climate zone 7&8 (the coldest zone in the United States). Inspired by quinzees, a snow shelter made from a hollowed out pile of snow, the students adapted the logic of “snow insulation” for their structures. The cabins employ structurally insulated panels (SIPs) for the walls and flat roofs. The roofs are designed to hold the snow in the winter, providing an additional R-20 to R-30 of insulation depending on the depth of the snow. A single electrical circuit powers each structure. This is accomplished by the small cabin footprints, LED lighting, and the super insulation of the SIPs combined with the snow’s natural insulation. This efficiency reflects the school’s commitment to the environment.
The orientation and articulation of each of the seven cabins react individually to the immediate site conditions present in the landscape. No two cabins are alike. Hot rolled steel cladding provides a low maintenance rain screen for the structure. The cladding and the vertical columns of the moment frame below blend with the pine forest, minimizing the visual impact. Cedar clad front and back porches are carved from the main mass to create entry and private outdoor spaces for the more introverted, permanent COBS staff. The cabin interiors are skinned in birch plywood bringing warmth to the structure and a connection with the trees surrounding the site.
2016 American Architecture Prize, Student Architecture
2016 American Architecture Prize, Gold-Small Architecture
2016 American Architecture Prize, Silver-Social Housing
2016 Residential Architect Design Awards (RADA)
2016 WAN Metal in Architecture Awards, Shortlisted
Located on a steep hillside in a lodgepole pine forest, these cabins were designed as micro dormitories for the Colorado Outward Bound School. The cabins sit lightly on the landscape, directing views from private spaces towards trees, rock outcroppings and distant mountain views of the Mosquito Range. More public “community” views are directed into social spaces that develop from the organization of the cabins in relationship to one another. These community spaces are made up of front porches and the negative spaces between cabins.
To satisfy clients’ lodging and storage requirements, and to facilitate completion in three weeks of on-site construction, the cabins were conceived as two separate elements, a “box” and a “frame”. The “frame” acts as a storage device for the educators’ large gear (bikes, skis, kayaks, etc.) while simultaneously housing the cabin “box” and covered porches. The prefabricated cabin “box” rests in the frame under the protection of a “snow roof” designed to keep the winter snow load off the waterproofed roof below. Hot rolled steel provides a low maintenance rain screen for the box. This steel cladding and the vertical columns blend with the lodgepole forest minimizing the visual impact of the cabins. Structural taped glazing on the windows eliminates mullions and connects the occupants directly with natural views.
The interior of the cabin is skinned in CNC’d birch plywood bringing warmth to the interior and evoking a connection with the trees surrounding the site. The plywood is specifically milled to accommodate desks, beds and storage for each user. The walls and CNC’d plywood were prefabricated in Denver, flat packed onto trucks and shipped to Leadville to shorten the on-site construction timeline.
2015 American Institute of Architects Colorado Honor Award
2015 American Institute of Architects Colorado Citation Award
2015-2016 ACSA Design-Build Award
2016 Architizer A+ Award Residential: Private House XS
Long’s Peak, the tallest and most iconic mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park, has become one of the most frequented 14ers in the State of Colorado. To deal with human waste on the trail, the National Park Service (NPS) installed their first backcountry toilets in 1983. Since their installation 35 years ago the technology has deteriorated in the harsh climate to the point that waste is now required to be removed by shovel full, placed into five-gallon buckets, and carried down the mountain using llamas.
Determined to find a better privy design, and a more humane solution of collecting waste, NPS collaborated with ColoradoBuildingWorkshop to re-design and constructed new backcountry privies. The new Long’s Peak Privies explore lightweight prefabricated construction and emerging methods of waste collection to minimize the human footprint in Colorado’s backcountry. The final design solution is a series of prefabricated structural gabion walls. Within the gabions, a series of thin steel plate moment frames triangulate the lateral loads within the structure while stones, collected on-site, are used as ballast. This innovative construction assembly allows for rapid on-site construction (the project was erected in eight days) and an architecture that disappears into the surrounding landscape.
2019 ACSA Design Build Award Winner
in collaboration with DesignBuildBLUFF at the University of Utah
The Mexican Water Chapter of the Navajo Nation partnered with the University of Colorado Denver and the Design Build BLUFF program to design and build two rentable cabins to bolster the local tourism industry. Influenced by the landscape and distant views of the Blue Mountains and Monument Valley, the programmatic design and materiality led to the development of two “sibling” cubes. One rests on the landscape while the other emerges from it. Each cabin establishes its own identity while simultaneously evoking the same language together.
The orientations of the Sunrise and Sunset Cabins were influenced by the Navajo tradition of eastern entry. While entering the Sunset Cabin requires a journey through the patio first, the journey of the Sunrise Cabin is through the building and out toward the cantilevered patio. Both patios, located on the northern side of the cabins, provide shade in the summer and are clad in reclaimed barn wood. In order to diversify the sleeping arrangement possibilities between the two 300 square foot spaces, the Sunrise Cabin includes a two-person sunken bed platform and the Sunset Cabin, with a bed, loft, and futon, can sleep up to six visitors.
Beauty and craft can be seen in the treatment of interior and exterior finishes. Concrete floors, sinks, and counters contrast the reclaimed barn wood on the interior walls and bedrooms while the weathered steel exterior resembles the red sand of the landscape. Apertures in both cabins frame views of the surrounding natural environment: the sand, mountains, and sky. Additionally, the carefully placed windows, skylight, and electrical lighting fill the spaces with soft light to emphasize materiality.
Redsand Cabins win the 2015 AIA Colorado YAAG Built Project of the Year
in collaboration with DesignBuildBLUFF at the University of Utah
The clients, a soft-spoken Navajo couple, requested a home that would allow for family gatherings while simultaneously providing a private place of retreat. They had an intimate understanding of their environment and had already constructed a small shade structure on the property for family gatherings. Students from the University of Colorado Denver worked in collaboration with DesignBuildBLUFF at the University of Utah to design and built a modest 800 square foot home.
Constructed for $25,000 this single pitched cedar clad house is stitched into the landscape with a cedar and recycled aluminum rain screen designed to layer shadows and transparency. The aluminum sheathing wraps the building, folding out from the facade and intersecting the cedar screen to create apertures that protect the glazing, and the main entry, from direct southern sun. The cedar, held off of the facade, provides a depth that creates a subtle dynamism of light and shadow. The vertical screen is spaced to reduce direct heat gain of the façade helping to keep the home cool in the summer. The walls and roof are constructed with structural insulated panels that exceeding traditional insulation standards.
Two private volumes (the bedroom and bathroom) clad in cedar, define the interior of the home. Doors have been integrated into the cladding to conceal their location further emphasizing privacy. At the end of the hallway a nook desk is built into the wall. A continuation of the cedar volume, the extrusion provides a work surface while shading the window from the summer sun. The depth captures the southern view back to the original shade structure, one of the main inspirations for the design.
The more public area of the home has an open floor plan that transitions out to the patio. The patio is enclosed by the cedar rain screen on the east and west but opens north to a view of the Blue Mountains. The rain screen offers protection from the sun and wind while providing filtered light and animated shadows.
in collaboration with DesignBuildBLUFF at the University of Utah
The Nakai residence was constructed for Lorraine Nakai, a Navajo, academic and avid collector.
In the middle of the desert with three existing structures on site the team sited the building to create an outdoor communal courtyard. The home opens to the south to accept the cool breezes in the summer, while the building shields the courtyard from the cold western winds in the winter. In response to the geomorphology of the site, the roof gestures up to the tree on the northeast and the nearby hill to the southwest. The building is clad in recycled spandrel glass. The glass reflects the landscape and nearby historic homes.
A 50-foot long bookcase on the interior of the home showcases the client’s collection of books, acts as the kitchen and sleeping nook while creating a threshold for private spaces behind it. The bookcase terminates at the window seat at the north end of the building. This reading nook is cantilevered under the lone tree on the site. The public zone of the floor plan is a large 11’ wide x 50’ long space beside the bookcase. The fireplace, an integral part of the Navajo culture, is the singular element in this space simply dividing the living room, dining room and kitchen from the art studio and bedroom.
Lamar Station Crossing is a new development by Metro West Housing Solutions, the housing authority of Lakewood, CO. The PUD is adjacent to one of the newest Lightrail lines in Colorado, the W line to Golden. The housing authority approached Colorado Building Workshop about designing a classroom to educate the residents about urban farming. The site is located in the panhandle of the property along the Lakewood Gulch. Given the up-and-coming characteristics of the neighborhood visibility into the classroom and vandalism were concerns. The solution was a steel bar grate structure that provided “dynamic” transparency. The orientation of the classroom allows for views into the space by staff sitting in their office while simultaneously allowing privacy for those learning in the classroom. When approaching the classroom on the path the structure continually gets more opaque due to the orientation of the vertical louvers. The bar grate skins carry the majority of the building load all but eliminating the need for columns and vertical web members. Once inside, the classroom subtly divides itself into three spaces. A large steel gutter that terminates in a wash station and planter marks the entry. A mobile table, and skylight, defines the classroom space directly east of entry, while the stage west of the entry opens to the future raised beds and amphitheater seating.
2017 AISC IDEAS2 Merit Award
Recipient of the 2015-2016 ACSA Design-Build Award
Next Stage Collaborative was designed and renovated by the students and faculty of ColoradoBuildingWorkshop. In collaboration with Denver Arts and Venues, this space further supports their mission to enhance Denver’s quality of life through premier public venues, artworks, and entertainment by becoming a platform to showcase student work—something rarely seen by the public.
To best utilize the facility, students created a clean, versatile exhibition space that accommodates two different programmatic zones: the first, an entry space where guests are greeted by information about the current exhibition, and the second, the exhibition space itself. The two zones have been articulated through subtle gestures in ceiling height variation and lighting strategies.
in collaboration with DesignBuildBLUFF at the University of Utah
Having received a typical Navajo “home build kit”, the clients, Harold and Helena Skow, had already completed a CMU foundation to accept a traditional rectangular gable-trussed home. Unable to complete the building the Skows turned to students from CU Denver and DesignBuidlBLUFF. The students decided to utilize the existing foundation and virtually all of the build kit materials stock piled on site in their design. While walking the site with the clients on their first visit some students took note that Harold wore a large brimmed hat which shielded the harsh sun from his face and neck. When asked about the protective garment Harold commented that everyone should have a sombrero in the desert. Inspired by his comment and resisting the idea of a traditional gable roof house, the team chose to turn the trusses upside down and create a sombrero for the Skows’ home.
Programmatically, the 800 sf, 2-bedroom home is separated into two volumes. The private volume, containing the bedrooms, is wrapped in highly insulative straw bale construction and is located to the north, providing a sense of comfort surrounded by natural earthen plaster and security from the desert elements. The public volume containing the living room and kitchen/dining room opens up to the southwest, providing spectacular views and a connection to the landscape while allowing direct solar gain, in the winter, through two walls of orientation-specific solar glazing. A large deck wraps the western and southern sides of the home and brings the ‘livable’ space outdoors for much of the year, while an eastern entry porch provides shaded outdoor space to gather during summer afternoon hours.
Skow Residence receives a Special Mention in the Architizer A+ Awards, Typology Categories Residential: Private House (XS <1000 sq ft)
The pavilion, located in Waterton Canyon, serves as an outdoor classroom for environmental groups involved in Bird Banding, Pond Ecology and Wildlife Habitat.
The structure is a pragmatic response to the various constraints of the site. The tilted columns were conceived to triangulate the lateral loads associated with a structure that, by floodplain regulations, were not allowed to have walls. Off the backside of the structure a small cantilever celebrates the release of captured birds back to nature. The roof drains to a central skylight (fondly referred to as the squoculus) to capture rainwater and filter it through vegetation, soil, and rock before returning it to the floodplain.
The Confluence Hall project was designed and built in 19 weeks by 27 students from [name withheld for blind review]. Confluence Hall is situated between the Wingate Cliffs and the La Salle Mountains just outside of Moab, Utah. The building serves as the main community space for the Colorado Outward Bound School’s Southwest Program. The students, staff, and instructors use the hall for course briefing, training, and community meals, with dormitories to the north, and the warehouse and workspaces to the south.
Located on the footprint of an old doublewide trailer (that was sold to help finance the project), Confluence Hall reused the foundation, patio, and existing infrastructure to keep costs low and the construction timeline brief.
The students worked with the staff and instructors of Colorado Outward Bound to create a successful structure that would best serve the organization. The team concluded that Confluence Hall should become a communal space that allows programmatic flexibility, mitigates the sun and wind, provides structural efficiency, and uses a palette of honest material while contextually linking to the rest of the site.
The program is organized from north to south into four zones – exterior gathering, interior gathering, cooking, and “the spa.” The thresholds between each zone are divided by light and accented by walnut millwork. The flexibility of the program is realized by a series of operable openings. Between the indoor and outdoor spaces, large Nana Walls open to provide connections between interior and exterior cooking and indoor and outdoor dining. These openings allow the spaces to connect to one another for large raucous gatherings. A large operable walnut wall provides flexibility for the kitchen to be closed to the dining room, separating workspace from meeting space. Smaller, more intimate spaces are tucked within the walnut millwork, providing places of escape for smaller gatherings.
In “the spa” a large sink overlooks the bluffs to the west while serving both toilet compartments. A large, two-person shower is accessed from the outside, allowing guides coming in from the field a place to rinse off before heading into the building.
The building is set back from the western edge of the existing foundation. This simultaneously creates an exterior walkway, to minimize conditioned indoor circulation and act as a buffer from both the hot western sun and parking lot to the west. On the southern edge of the walkway a concrete wall rises, allowing the large window in the “spa” to view the Wingate Cliffs to the west without seeing cars in the parking lot. On the northern edge of the walkway a hung steel staircase descends from the rooftop deck, and the canopy that covers the north and east patio folds down the western side of the walkway linking to the patio beyond.
The canopy is constructed of four-inch insulated wall panels. The material was left over from warranty work on a telecom building and scheduled to be discarded. The project recycles these panels, reimagining them as large louvers for the patio opening to the eastern view of the La Salle Mountains. The inherent structural capacity of the panels is leveraged to span large distances, minimizing the amount of steel structure required. Using a grasshopper script, the spacing of canopy panels and structure was determined to allow for maximum sun penetration in the winter while allowing minimal sun exposure in the summer. Openings within the overhead canopy allow for fire-pits and a rooftop deck, while other panels are removed to reinforce the thresholds within the building.
Hot rolled steel panels with a hand-rusted patina clad the main portion of building. The cladding helps relate Confluence Hall to other campus buildings clad in rusted corrugated steel. Window openings on the south and west of the structure are veiled with large shade apertures, reducing solar gain and providing depth and privacy for the spaces beyond.
2018 ACSA Design Build Award
2017 AIA Utah Honor Award
“Windcatcher House” was designed for a single mother and her son in Southeastern Utah. The design aims to protect from the harsh desert climate, while utilizing the beneficial attributes of the natural elements. This manifests itself in the focal point of residence, the central hearth, or “windcatcher.” The hearth naturally acts as both the primary cooling and heating source for the home, utilizing passive evaporative cooling through wetted media within the tower, and a wood stove at its base. Thermal mass is utilized through compressed earth blocks surrounding the stove and rammed earth walls, protecting the home from harsh winds and the intense summer sun.
Built for a non-profit with quite literally no budget, these two structures were designed over the course of a semester and built in three weeks. To manage this feat, the students worked as hard on fundraising and donation procurement as they did on design and construction. The Learning Cube operates as an outdoor classroom, first stop on the farm tour, orientation device, and visual icon for the property. The Dairy House provides a teaching facility for goat milking, goat and sheep shearing, as well as protection from the sun and wind for the occupants. Both structures make use of salvaged, scrap, and donated materials that expose the element of time as revealed in materiality.
In contrast to the historic building, the design inserts modern elements creating space by drawing off the location of the northern window. The design uses this window to showcase the natural light revealing the space in different ways throughout the day and over the course of the changing seasons. This natural light also helps define the space in the entry and museum store. Making a connection to Colorado and addressing issues of sustainability, the new design uses salvaged and recycled materials when appropriate.