Colorado Outward Bound School Micro Cabins
A group of architecture students from the Colorado Building Workshop recently constructed 14 attractive small cabins near Leadville, Colorado. Participating in a design-build programme, the students designed the cabins for the Colorado Outward Bound School – 14 cabins provide more than just shelter. They are sustainable micro-dormitories devised to connect students with nature, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
This project was designed and built by 28 graduate students in 19 weeks. A team of interdisciplinary faculty and professionals helped guide the process. The project showcases architect lead design build and the ingenuity of an integrated project delivery design team.
Pre-Design and Programming:
The semester began with an intensive three-day integrated project delivery design session. The clients, structural engineer, students and architecture faculty worked as a team to understand the history of the Colorado Outward Bound School, diagram existing housing precedents, analyze environmental data and better comprehend the social nature of the school. The outcome of the visit was to establish “core issues” and “joint positions” with the Integrated Project Delivery team.
Design and Mock-up:
As the semester evolved the students presented concepts to the IPD team and clients. The feedback they received was incorporated into new design proposals and a full-scale mock-up. The students tested their prefabricated assemblies and CNC’d furniture using the mock-up, which was constructed inside the architecture building. The second floor studio, where the project was constructed, proved to be a good test for how building assemblies could negotiate tight spaces.
The outcome of the mock-up was to better understand the timeframe and budget of the project when tested against a real build. The process proved invaluable. At the conclusion of the mock-up build the students changed design details, materials assemblies and products to better fit the remote site and condensed timeline. Without this stage of the design process the project would never have been completed on time.
Engaging the consultants:
The mock-up became a tool for learning about new methods of construction. The prefabricated projected windows, glazed with 3M VHB tape, evolved into an area where collaboration between instructors, students and material representatives was required to create a new waterproofing detail.
Students also tested their prefabricated Structurally Non-Insulated Panels or SNIPs. The CNC’d interior and flat stud wall framed SNIPs were designed with the structural engineer and conceived to be a lighter, more integrated way to assemble the cabins and interior furniture. It proved to created unforeseen issues with tolerance that slowed the process and compromised the craft of the cabins. The idea was abandoned for flat packed, advanced frame, prefabricated wall assemblies.
Finally the mock-up proved useful for determining the steel frame details. Various column to girder connections were explored along with tension connections for the cross bracing. Students were able to evaluate the cost of each assembly and weight it against the ease of construction and aesthetic value.
Colorado Building Workshop:
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.
Project name: Colorado Outward Bound School Micro Cabins
Location: 1930 Colorado 300, Leadville, CO 80461, United States
Coordinates: 39.217535, -106.385135
- Type By Characteristic: Micro Dormitory, Cabin / Hut / Cottage, Prefab House
- Type By Site: Forest House, Hill House
- Type By Size: Tiny House – (less than 51 sqm)
- Type By Materials: Steel House
Materials: Steel, dimensional lumber and birch plywood
Project Area: 14 cabins total – Each cabin is less than 200 sq.ft / 18 sqm
Site Area: 3.3 acres
Scope of work:
- Prefabricated flat pack cabins
- Designed and built in 19 weeks
- Constructed at 10,000 ft. in a lodgepole pine forest
Additional information: The cabins replaced tuff sheds and quonset huts that were being used as staff housing.
Construction Period: January 2015 – June 2015
Cost: $9,500 per cabin, $133,000 total (material cost) – The design build program donated all the labor
Completion Year: 2015
Client / Owner / Developer: Colorado Outward Bound School
Architects: Colorado Building Workshop at University of Colorado Denver – 1250 14th St, Denver, Colorado 80202, United States
- Derek Ackley, Sidney Aulds, Brent Beicker, Matthew Breen, Andrew Brown, John Giddens, Brandon Gossard, Aaron Gray, Dane Hardy, Chad Holmes, Casandra Huff, Mark Hurni, Timo Jyrinki, Rachel Koleski, Kate Lucas, Nathan Moore, Matt Ollmann, Aleka Pappas, Holly Paris, Nathan Pepper, Kit Piane, Ken Roberts, Louisa Sanford, Joe Stainbrook, Brandon Sweeney, Phil Stuen, Amanda Tharp, Elliott Watenpaugh
Maymester Students: Becca Barenblat, Jeff D’Addario, Sam Palmer-Dwore
Faculty: Rick Sommerfeld, Scott Lawrence, JD Signom, Jordan Vaughn
Structural Engineer: Andy Paddock
- Altitude Steel, Carlisle Syntec Systems, Airgas, Oldcastle Building Envelope, Rocky Mountain Lumber, Simpson Strong-Tie, Cummins Rocky Mountain, DuPont Tyvek, Red-D-Arc Welderentals, Glass Systems, VonMod
Text Description: © Courtesy of Colorado Building Workshop
Images: © Colorado Building Workshop, Jesse Kuroiwa