Sun Valley, Sustainable Urbanism and High Performance Project in the most challenging site in Denver!


The Zero Net Energy Future is Here!

Sun Valley in the stadium district of downtown Denver is our Advanced Greenbuilding Studio project for this term, sponsored  by both Denver Housing Authority and the City of Denver’s CPD.  The Sun Valley Project now in the late planning stages, remains one of the most challenging urban projects as well as one of the largest potential developments in the downtown Denver.  The mission as defined by our “clients” focuses on both Sustainable Urbanism in urban design as well as Zero Net Energy (ZNE) architectural prototypes.  In many ways the studio’s solutions represent the future of sustainable development.   The Denver Housing Authority and the City of Denver have asked our studio to examine the project to develop a prototype for sustainability and high performance. 

Per our client’s directives, we’ve developed in Sun Valley a sustainable urban design Master Plan on 7 individual sites with sustainable urbanism, eco urban agriculture and truly passive Zero Net Energy Building (ZNEB) concepts.  Our task was to showcase sustainable urbanism and true ZNEB concepts in a broad pallet of sustainability principles and innovative green building prototypes.  The studio after developing the overall Master Plan divided into 7 individual groups on adjacent sites.  The program driven by the clients, developed entertainment, TOD, affordable housing and mixed uses around a theme for urban redevelopment driven by the sustainability principles of the Triple Bottom Line, Equity, Environment and Economy.  The project includes over 1500 affordable housing units, market housing, restaurants, Colorado Proud purveyors, micro breweries, music venues, a marketplace, town center and eco urban farming and production.  The Triple Bottom Line included the addition of not only public amenities but local employment through a “Jobs Farm” and affordable housing for the existing residents as well as service to the UCD campus a mere 200 yard away.  The object of the project includes not only showcasing sustainable development but also knitting the urban fabric together to create a viable and lively mixed use sustainable showcase for the local and regional residents. 



Designing Food Systems and Architecture. Sun Valley Gardens, Denver.

Sun Valley Gardens: An Urban Farming Utopia in the Making.

Designing Food Systems and Architecture within the Human Context

Ecological Footprint

The production of edible food within city limits has been growing in popularity as a viable response to the issues impacting our Food Systems. Urban Farming, Agriculture, Gardening- no matter the term, the concept of merging the production of food with the infrastructure of architecture is integral holistic community design. Considerations of how this might look on a site such as Sun Valley were explored to represent a diversity of typologies, research, and other methods to try to understand how food and architecture can symbiotically function to best support human vitality.

Sun Valley Gardens illustrates an opportunity for Denver to establish its own educational and urban farming production center that is supported by its adjoining community. A community where humans are once again reconnected to the nature of their food and the design challenges and opportunities that this provides is listed below.

Humans have made decisions about how they would like to live in the world and use resources. This project focuses on the design opportunity of an urban farming systems project in which ecology and human behavior are evaluated to form an ideal, somewhat avante-garde approach to weaving urban agriculture fingerlings throughout a residential condition. I touch upon everything from ideal plant types and evapo-transpiration to residential greenhouses with ever changing high performance facade potential.

Designating areas of the riverfront as private townhome properties created the potential for higher properties values and ground the rest of the site. Private riverfront real estate will become increasingly valuable in time with increasing densities.

-Landscape components such as Ecological framework, Beach Access, Playground + swings, vertical medicinal gardens, Zen rockscapes, raised permeable walkways..

-Agricultural Components such as Urban Farm Production Center, Living Learning Library, Ecology Center, Demonstration, Job training, continuing education..

-Green Technology such as Wastewater Treatment, Thermal Mass + Airflow, high performance greenhouses..

-Passive Design Methods such as Collanades, Trellis + Overhead conditions for S+W, Green roofs, Restorer Technology..

-Food is intended to be illustrated, demonstrated, a learning tool, and a method of empowerment and development..

10 img032 UrbanDesignSite3.jpg TheoreticalFloorPlanMultiFamily063 (2) img005Sketch.guadi houses.jpgimg006img003img011




13th St. Net Zero Brewery

Final Main Building Elevation with SkyFinal Event Space with entourage

This project focus on creating a pedestrian friendly street along the realigned 13th street. This street will focus on creating nodes of activity and a safe feeling along the street. Creating nodes of activity is accomplished by creating public plazas surrounded restaurants and retail focused on the local atmosphere and locally produced produce and products. Safety is accomplished through the idea of eyes on the street. This is accomplished through having balconies and through concentrating activities in nodes, as being in crowds feels safer. This street provides a main link between the park along Platte river and access to federal boulevard. This method would allow us as designers to guide pedestrians down the main street and ultimately enjoy the park and river.  This method would allow us as designers to guide pedestrians down the main street and ultimately enjoy the park and river. The ground floor would be made up of retail and offices while the floors above would be mainly residential but would also include some offices. Another goal we have is trying to reuse the materials from the water drums previously located on the site. One of the ways to do that is to create shading structures with the materials from the oil drums and strategically put the shading structures along the main street and the park. Another aspect of our site is storm water management. The rain water collected from Main St. is collected into an alley bioswale where the water is filter from a series of bioswales that works its way into the ecology walk and ultimately flow into the South Platte River. The ecology walk provides an educational component linked in to the school.

Final Appartment Interior  Final Park Rendering with Entourage Final Residental Walkway

Our mission statement specifically for our building is to create courtyards to provide a view and good ventilation for the inhabitants in the building and create a main space for pedestrians to congregate. The building is cooled and ventilated naturally throughout the year. A system of earth tubes tempers the air before it enters the building. A series of interstitial walls naturally pulls air through the building. To increase the effectiveness. Waste heat from domestic hot water panels on the roof is used to seed and increase the temperature gradient within these walls.  This results in the sawtooth form of the building, as each module is stacked next to each other.

Final boards 5.9

The Zuni Power Station: Sun Valley’s Iconic Market Hub

The main atrium in the Power Station.

The main atrium in the Power Station.

The Sun Valley Neighborhood has enormous potential in urban growth for supporting a market space that not only provides a place for Sun Valley residents and surrounding neighborhoods to sell urban grown produce, products, and services all made in the region, but also becomes an icon and attraction for Sun Valley and Denver. Through our market program, the Power Station of Sun Valley can be renovated into and an asset for the community creating jobs, and providing a space for the people to celebrate their culture, heritage, neighborhood, and everything they create. The programs of both the Power Station site plan and renovated factory are as follows:

– Reinvent the idea/creation of industrial use: mixed use light industrial program focus. It promotes the community as a productive, working, job creating area, and yet still clean and pleasing to the eye.
– Increase site connectivity and mobility by widening 13th and Zuni: two lane street, bike lanes, off-street parking, wide sidewalks with trees and landscaping.
– Provide outdoor spaces/rooms that promote use: outdoor market, dining/patio, “relax space.”
–  Showcase the old with the new: adaptive reuse and new technology. Juxtaposing the historic, red brick with new industrial (technology) materials like metal and glass. New and old working together in an exposing way so as a structural/industrial style is the language of the building facades.

KEYWORDS/PHRASES: Industrial Reinvention, Adaptive Reuse, Outdoor Rooms, Brick, Metal, Glass

– Reinvent the industrial building: live/work/make/sell, energy producing, clean.
– Power Station: Adaptive Reuse. Only change what doesn’t work. Small atrium “slivers” work with building to bring in light, air, and energy. Create a wall and atrium system that collects, moves energy/wind through building: insulating 3 ft. thick brick walls.

KEYWORDS/PHRASES: industrial reinvention, clean, attractive, adaptive reuse, energy collection/producing.

Green Strategies:
Heating: Ground Loop, Thermal Mass, Solar Chimney, Venturi Effect, Solar Thermal
Cooling: Ground Loop, Ground Coupling, Thermal Mass, Night Flushing, Solar Thermal, Venturi Effect, Solar Tubes

final boards_11x17

LOWER COLFAX VIADUCT – A Prototype to Ignite Colorado Proud

A project by Amy McCann & Kelly Breidenbach
of Cedar Platte Confluence Designs
Mission Statement:
Sun Valley is a neighborhood that has a great amount of potential to be a sustainable and successful community. Our goal is to develop the Lo-Fax Entertainment district as a catalyst that will support residents of the neighborhood and attract a broader population to participate in the activities that will take place in the district. We will create a mixed-use node that has a distinct character and brand. In order to achieve our goals we have prioritized the following missions:
First, we will enhance the neighborhood’s existing assets. Second, we will design flexible spaces that will function for day-to-day life and event days. Third, we will design a neighborhood that can be navigated easily by pedestrians who arrive to the site via public transportation, car, or bike. And finally, we will design a zero net energy building that the community can take pride in.
Project Description:
Located along Lower Colfax (aka LoFax) just South of the Broncos Stadium. This site has a unique set of existing conditions. The Colfax viaduct runs overhead in this area of the site and it is the intersection of a few distinct zones: the Entertainment Zone (which stems from downtown and encompasses the Pepsi Center, Elitches, and of course the Broncos Stadium), the Commercial Zone (along Federal and enters the site at Lower Colfax where existing businesses like Brooklyn’s is located), and the Academic Zone (which enters the site from the East where the Auraria Campus is located).
In order to meet the needs of all three contributing zones, this site will be populated with a series of buildings that will serve as satellite schools to the Auraria campus. All of the schools will teach a form of entertainment related to culture and/or the arts. Classroom/studio spaces will be located on the North end of the buildings while the South side that fronts Lower Colfax will have a commercial space that will become an amenity to the neighborhood and will be run by the students as part of their education. Schools that could populate this site and their accompanied commercial space include: Culinary School (with a restaurant), Comedy School (with a comedy club), Art School (with galleries), Writing Center (with a bookstore), Fashion Design (with boutique stores), Industrial Design (with a store), and a Music School (with a coffee house or bar).
The satellite schools will reinforce the node’s new designation as the Colorado Proud entertainment district. The commercial programs can use local materials/food/wine/beer in their businesses and the schools will help nurture local talent and help develop local businesses. These buildings will also bring a street presence to Lower Colfax and help develop the Main Street of the entertainment node of Sun Valley. Also, the buildings we’ve designed will tuck under the viaduct bringing people into the space and in turn making a current eye sore into a useable space that can be celebrated and help create an identity for the neighborhood.
The upper floors of these buildings will be used as residential units that will help make the neighborhood a safer space to occupy and encourage the site use 24 hours a day. These units would also be a great location for students to live.
The buildings will be constructed using pre-fabricated modules that are made of a metal structure with a double extruded aluminum storefront wall assembly and completed with a perforated corrugated metal panel skin. These modules come in a standard size but their wall assemblies are easily manipulated to allow for openings where required by the building’s program.
Each building utilizes several sustainable strategies in order to meet a LEED Platinum rating. Integrated sustainable strategies include the use of: a transpired air collector, ground source heat pump to make use of water from the adjacent Platte River, photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, daylighting strategies such as light shelves and louvers to direct light into the interior and/or protect from glare, and passive cross-ventilation techniques.

Younit Development- Designing Sustainable and Customizable Apartments

11×17 boards

Being located in line of sight of the TOD station for the Sun Valley Neighborhood. The goal to the Younit Development was to create an iconic building that would help orient visitors to the site as well as creating a critical mass to help all other services that will be occurring on the site. The 15 story main building is designed to be a plug and play modular building. The buildings form is curved to reflect the creek and bike path to the north of the building. And Building 2 and 3 help create an interior plaza for all visitors and residents to use.  Within this plaza space is an innovative digital library pavilion. This digital library space is an open air space that will feature interfaces and streaming books as well as being a WiFi hot spot. This library is designed to not only bring visitors to site but also help to bring the community together and not feel separated from Denver.

The modular unit features innovative interstitial radiant floor and ceiling systems to help heat and cool the unit throughout the year. The radiant systems are supplied from a heat exchanger system attached to the stair circulation towers. This exchanger system works by connecting an evaporation cooling tower to solar chimney creating wind speeds of around 8 mph as well as temperatures of 60 to 138 which the heat exchangers would store in water.

The modular units also were designed to allow the residents to design their own room layouts with movable walls, and fixed in place kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room. Also residents were able to choose what type of exterior they would want for the north and south elevations as well as different features to improve the apartments energy use such as PV panels, Light shelves  Electrochromic windows, transpired wall systems, Light louvers, porch, and garden space. This not only creates an interesting facade overall for the main building but also gives the residents the opportunity to express themselves and an individual.

Building 2 and 3 are designed to us a interstitial wall that is connected to solar water heaters. These solar water heaters will provide the necessary heat to help pull air from a geothermal system to provide cooling. During the winter the solar water heaters will provide hot water to radiant floor system. Also the interstitial wall system allows light to bounce off of emissive surfaces provide some day lighting to the units. The residents also have the ability to change the exterior of their apartments to express themselves. The air intake of the geothermal system is designed to be an integrated structural feature of the digital library.

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) site – north of Decatur and Federal light rail station

by Tim Holk and Jacob Cox – 5.9.13

Mission Statement

Our goal is to continue to learn how to develop and produce environmentally conscious urban designs – with the use of energy-efficient systems. This takes the form of energy-efficient buildings and concepts approaching and exceeding net zero energy. We aim to achieve this through passive design strategies that reduce the inherent energy use of a building to a minimum and then supplementing what energy it does use with renewable energy systems and sustainable design techniques. We would also like to understand how to develop economically sustainable urban design strategies that will last, and create a better ‘place’ to live and work. I hope to help this neighborhood realize its potential, while retaining its interesting, unique characteristics.

Design Considerations

Our overall strategy for the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) site was primarily to achieve an agreeable density and a mix of uses to activate the site. Being the arrival point to the Sun Valley neighborhood, due to the access of public transportation, we discovered the importance of the urban design of our site. The challenges we faced were how to orient people once they got on site, how to move them through the neighborhood toward the ‘main street’ of old Colfax, and how to provide for the programmatic elements demanded of the site.

A critical mass of residential units within walking distance to the lightrail station was a priority of the city. The reasoning behind this residential density is to provide public transportation access to residents as a means of getting to work, and connecting to the rest of the city – an enormous problem in this neighborhood currently. The history of the neighborhood tells us that there is a disconnect with this site and the rest of the city, due to mostly man-made boundaries, namely: large high traffic streets. This causes the longest travel times to and from work for the people currently living here due to the indirect nature of the existing public transportation and street network.

Another driving factor for the neighborhood in general was job creation through a mixed use program. Deciding to locate office space on site provided some of this job creation as well as a mixed use strategy to activate the site throughout the day and year. Retail spaces as well as possible restaurants and/or coffee shops on the park and leading to the Old Colfax main street (and the Bronco’s Stadium on game days) was another program the site seemed to need. By moving the office buildings up Holden Place toward Federal Boulevard, it allowed for retail and an active street front leading northeast from the lightrail station. This was to direct visitors to the neighborhood to the hubs of activity further into the valley.

The connection to the adjacent open space park was another amenity that was informing the master planning of the site. An allowance of views and permeation of the building massing along the south and west edges of the site connect the residence farther back on site a connection to the park and the rest of the city through the existing system of bike trails. The open space within the TOD site also provides a more private space, while the park is largely public. The contained open space(s) on site provide activities for residence as well as outdoor lunch space for office buildings and outdoor gathering space for the educational program component.

Lastly, the programmatic elements of the neighborhood centering on sustainability seemed like they could use some kind of orienting device and public interface. The proposal then, of a civic ‘icon building’ on the corner of Holden and Decatur becomes the center programmatic gateway for the site. This building would be programmed to hold sustainable education workshops as well as conference space dedicated to sustainable and energy-efficient gatherings. This way, when visitors come to the site there is a public system in place to inform them of all the net zero energy strategies being implemented in the neighborhood re-development, as well as the local food production industry toward the south of the neighborhood.

The link below is the pdf file of our final presentation boards.

Final Boards

BandWorks Denver

Iron Works

The iconic Iron Works building, typically seen by drivers on the Colfax viaduct.

The Zuni and Old Colfax district also known as “LoFax” sits sandwiched 3-dimensionallly between I-25, the Colfax Viaduct and the Platte River, just across the street from the old Iron Works building.  It remains largely unchanged from how it looked over the last generation of industrial development along the Platte.  It still has the look and gritty feel that helped make Denver what it is today.  The steel fabrication shops, long since shuttered, their signs stand as a guard to history.

Shuttered steel shops.

Shuttered steel shops under the I-25 and Colfax Viaducts

Gateway to LoFax 1

The ‘gateway’ to LoFax.

The 'gateway' to LoFax.

Another Gateway…


A few of the current and very active and gritty steel fabricators across I-25, the neighbors.

altitude Mtn man steel yard

This 4.5 acre corner of SunValley is where we are proposing a new and edgy music district as a destination for Denver.  While many of the steel shops have closed in our study area there is a bustling fabrication district just east of I-25 keeping the home spun fabrication industry alive.  It is this boot strapping identity that helped make Denver an Icon in the west.  Our project capitalizes on the spirit of individuals creating their own niche in the world.  In our case, it is through music.

Denver has a vibrant history of attracting and producing great bands.  There are a lot of small venues around the city hosting small shows for a modest ticket price.  Places like the Hi-Dive on Broadway at 1st St and the neighboring Sputnik Café add lively night culture to a block of Broadway that has its own identity.  Our goal is to support these type of small venue bands with affordable live-work studio & practice space that embraces the gritty history of Denver’s steel yards and provides an outdoor performance venue along the Platte, for the people of Denver.  We call it BandWorks.

band plays

Local music, at a local scale and venue.

clothing @ sputnik

Leave your coats at the bar and go to the show…

kickin' it

Typical street scene after a small show.

The LoFax district is an opportunity for redevelopment into such a place.  We are proposing a Denver twist on the House Concert movement growing in the northwest where friends pool their cash and have a band play at their house, instead of going to the crowded bars.  In our case friends would pool their cash and go to the bands studio for a semi-private gig.  Located in the back yard of the Broncos stadium neighborhood also creates opportunities of critical masses for larger pre/post game performances at the riverside amphitheater.  This branded venue would start to host its own music festivals and come alive as another district for First Friday Art Walks, already a happening vibe in the city, students from the neighboring Auraria campus and a resource for local Sun Valley residents.

Power station block

Looking north past the Zuni Power station.

JD Street sketch

Heat Control concept

Heat control concept sketches.

Air Curtain Concept Sketch

Concept sketches of passively ventilated house/studios for local bands.

Here are our final boards for the BandWorks.

Final presentation board 1/4.

Final presentation board 1/4.

Final Board 2/4.

Final presentation board 2/4.

Final presentation board 3/4.

Final presentation board 3/4.

Final presentation board 4/4.

Final presentation board 4/4.

…and a few renderings of the musicians live/work studio spaces.

Garage band practice space and apartment above.

Rock out garage band!

Rock out garage band!

Kitchen space inside the studio.

Kitchen space inside the studio.

green wall

Green Wall and evaporative cooler air intake.