Advanced Greenbuilding Studio, The Welton Street Corridor

Our Advanced Greenbuilding Studio at the College of Architecture and Planning at UCD is tackling the Welton Street Corridor! The Studio work to date is posted here in this blog. Our combined sustainable urban design and Zero Net Energy, ZNE buildings are helping to redefine the concepts proposed by Architecture 2030 and the 2010 Imperative!

Our studio will enter this project into an international competition, the Blue Award from Austria focusing on sustainable architecture and planning…”Sustainability means going beyond a one-dimensional approach and taking a comprehensive view of the tasks at hand in order to achieve results and protect an environment worth experiencing.” Here’s the link .


Encouraging Sustainable Urban Opportunities

By Caitlin Blythe, Ryan Bender, and Kevin Larrabee

The Welton Street Corridor, a ten-block stretch running from the edge of the Central Business District through Five Points, once thrived as a center of jazz, nightclubs, and a variety of services. Now, a third of the corridor is considered blighted (primarily developed as surface parking) and only offers a smaller assortment of services that do not see the pedestrian traffic they need to thrive.

Welton Street can act as a focal point for a large and diverse population between the surrounding neighborhoods.

Several points along the corridor offer strong perpendicular access, encouraging connection between the neighborhoods. Additionally, Denver City Planning proposes a pedestrian experience along 21st Ave, a move that can be replicated along 24th – one block of which is already pedestrian. Various unique resources currently exist along the corridor that can be expanded upon, from the cultural and community services around 24th to the historic landmarks at Five Points.

Urban Design Scheme

Due to connections and existing resources, the corridor divides into three nodes with potentially distinct identities.

Welton Street can be studied as a series of three potential nodes, occurring at 21st, 24th, and Five Points. Each responds to different factors, from the level of current development (low at 21st and high at Five Points) to the character of the surrounding areas (dense high-rise of the business district around 21st, one to two story residential and retail around Five Points).

Concerned parties cite a lack of services and a transportation infrastructure ill-suited to the development of a thriving corridor as the most pressing problems, but Welton Street has a true potential that transcends even these concerns.

Welton Street offers unparalleled opportunities for sustainable revitalization

Connecting the city

Welton Street as a vehicle for connecting the city

The single rail line along Welton Street can potentially evolve into a larger network of public transportation (bus or streetcar) that moves beyond the corridor to connect to the Ballpark and RiNo neighborhoods, Colfax’s transportation routes, and the development to occur at the new rail hub at 38th and Blake. Not only will the immediate neighborhoods around Welton have ready access to its services and spaces, but the surrounding regions will be tied tightly to each other via the corridor.

Encouraging unique identities

Each node has different adjacencies, opportunities for development or infill, and existing services. Each has different pressures to respond to, different functions that can grow and evolve. With this in mind, each should offer a set of services to meet the node’s intentions, from Twenty-First supplying medium to high density residential supporting the business district to Five Points building upon its existing cultural heritage and future.

Planting for a sustainable Colorado

Planting appropriately for Colorado

Connecting people back to the processes that sustain them can help to ensure the vitality of a neighborhood. Expanding upon the growing urban agriculture scene in Denver, the open space along Welton between Park Ave and 24th can become a hub for such community growth, offering planters as well as farmer’s markets.

Integrating people and their environment

Pedestrian avenues and alleyways can serve more functions than human-scaled circulation and massing. Bioswales and permeable paving can turn them into integrated, multifunctional axes to sustain people as well as the environment, providing space for circulation, recreation, small-scale gathering, stormwater management, agriculture, and ecologically-sensitive planting.

Greenbuilding potential

Sustainable architecture can support and potentially drive a sustainable urban approach. The class has focused on the following projects:

The Redesign of Cervantes Theater Continues!

Cervantes has come a long way over the last month! The look and feel of the original design has changed quite a bit thanks to the addition of our zero-net energy strategies.

Notice anything new?

The central glass box that once stood only to identify the performance area now serves many purposes. The super sweet roof design helps to passively ventilate the building while removing heat, allowing in daylight, and creating energy.

Check out our diagrams explaining it all!

The marquee is now equipped with glass panels embedded with LED lights and PVs. Thus, it becomes a dynamic, glowing “media wall” that can display anything from upcoming events and performances to the evening’s specials at the restaurant.  And the best part is… is powers itself! The brick facade becomes almost screen like as linear groups of bricks turn outward to reveal the performance box behind. This results in an almost permeable and glowing facade at night.

During the day, this brick pattern allows light to filter into the space while still protecting the southern facade from harsh direct rays.

The courtyard has also been revamped to engage more of the FIve Points intersection and create a fun and dynamic space for visitors. The courtyard includes a small coffee kiosk that is a nod to the glass box behind the Cervantes facade as well as many small planters and pavers that mimic the box’s grid. The planters create areas for street performers, vendors, and people to just hang out on a nice day or while waiting for a show.

The alleyway is also new and improved. By opening up the backside facade to expose the glass box and engage the alley, the alley itself becomes much more open and inviting (and much less scary) to visitors passing through. It also creates a much larger space for events that want to engage both the exterior and interior.

Green Technology within the Atrium Lofts

Hooray! Our final review was yesterday, and things could not have gone better! Everyone brought their A-game with great projects, a HUGE panel of jurors, delicious food, and lively discussions. Did I mention the fantastic projects already?

Miles and I have come a long way since our midterm review. We dialed down our project’s massing, incorporated state-of-the-art green technologies, and developed a building language that is unique within the Welton corridor, without standing out like a sore thumb. We purposely kept our building to 4 stories, allowed for green spaces and a variety of coutryards instead of building out the entire site. The building itself is porous to allow neigboring residents easy foot access while also giving neighboring vacant sites a context in which they can build.


The green sytems are organized around 4 large atria. The atria are super-heated at the top by solar oven technology. This creates a huge temperature differential and augments the natural stack effect. This large force pulls air through exterior earth-tubes and circulates the cool air through the building. In the winter, the solar ovens heat water which is then circulated throughout the building to warm the residential units.


Grey and black-water are treated on site and can be used to water the on-site vegetation and the surplus can water the neighboring park. If Denver didn’t have such antediluvian water laws, water could be collected from the roof, stored and then used throuhgout the building. Maybe one day….

Finally, our building contains a variety of different progromatic functions. On the ground level you will find different commercial spaces. These include small, medium, large and even live/work units. The upper three floor contain residential units. These too are varied in form a function. Anything from single-person lofts to three bedroom units can be found on site. All have great views of the city and Colorado’s famous Front Range.

Below are a few more selected photos of our project. Check back soon to check out our completed competition boards!!!

Green Urbanism and the Urban Plug & Play Library

Derek Westby & Wesley StocktoThe Urban Plug & Play Library is a kit-of-parts urban  design exploration of the possibilities for streamlining and modeling the city planning and urban revitalization process. The Library consists of a series of urban design elements ranging from residential, to commercial, to open space, intended to be inserted into urban design schemes in concert with modeling software to determine what sort of impacts they might have on a given location.

Urban Plug and Play Library
This project is specific to the Welton Street corridor Denver, Colorado, but the aim of the
Library is to begin to lay the framework and foundation for a more complex in depth
analysis and urban design tool that could be implemented in any urban design project
around the globe. Ideally, through a simple formula that takes into account the needs of
the local populace and themes of the local culture and history, we hope this library could
eventually be developed into a modeling tool to help planners develop successful and
responsive urban design schemes.

Urban Plug and Play Possibilities
The fully developed Library could be used as a tool to model urban performance for whole
neighborhoods on economic, social, and environmental levels to really give a feel for how
the inclusion of specific urban design elements may effect a neighborhood or even a city
or region into the foreseeable future. This could be achieved in collaboration with
analysis and modeling software like OpenStudio, Space Syntax, or even Sim City.

Space Syntax

The basic organization and categorization of urban elements in the Library is based on
two spectrums of performance: how the elements interact with users and each other, and
how elements respond to the local culture. On one side, the elements are categorized as
either generating new users, supporting the needs of current users, or supplementing the
existing elements. On the other side, the elements are categorized as either responding to
the area’s local history, the modern culture, or the future aspirations of the residents.

Sim CityUnderstandably, the elements towards the core of the Library’s structure are more generic and will respond to the needs of a variety of locations, while elements towards the edges are more tailored toward the specific needs of one location; in this case the Welton
Street Corridor. This formula is easy to use and simple to implement, so location specific elements can be developed by planners in different regions to respond to their local


ZEPHYR by Bennie and Carrie

Our project has evolved since midterm reviews. We are proud to introduce the ZEPHYR

Evolution sketches

The sun studies reflect that the site has limited access to sun.  Current zoning allows the buildings immediately surrounding the site to be 12 stories tall.  Further South, the allowable height is up to 16 stories.  Therefore, a photo voltaic system is not a viable optionto offset building use. section showing building heights informed by zoning surrounding ZEPHYR

ZEPHYR is on 20th and Welton. This is the edge of the high rise zoning

The full use of a wind generator is necessary in order to achieve a Zero Net Energy (ZNE) building.  As inspired by the vacuum created by James Dyson, a cyclone can be used to create constant negative pressure that naturally creates a wind current by suction, even when the wind is not blowing.  By forcing the current to flow through nano wind generators electricity is generated all day and every day, offsetting the building electrical use by a factor of 3.

The cyclone pulls air through the building to heat and cool through hot or cold screens. Above is the cooling cycle. Air is pulled through a vertical garden, cooling it through evaporative means. It is sucked down to the thermal chambers below grade. It is passed through enthalpy wheels that treat the air further. Then the air is “sucked” into the units vis interstitial floors. All air movement is by the cyclone. 

Recent Studies have shown that over four million Americans have been unemployed for a period of a year or more.  This is a large increase from under 1 million just five years ago.  To combat this, people are turning to other skills and hobbies in order to create some kind of income.  Developers are starting to recognize the need to provide these people with small, inexpensive, and flexible office space made to order.  The flex space in this building achieves the same goal of creating a place for production and innovation available to anyone who needs a dedicated space.

The unit break down is as follows:

45 Units, 93,000 sqft

Studio unit: 450 sqft

1 Bedroom unit: 770 sqft

1 Bedroom with Study: 850 sqft

2 Bedroom Unit: 900 sqft

3 Bedroom Unit: 1100 sqft

Buildings were pulled apart to allow for daylight to reach the interior and all units, this allowed for a interior courtyard space for the residents. 


Before midterm review:

Guiding Principle:

To provide a safe vertical sustainable community that connects to its surroundings while preserving and enhancing the natural environment.

Building as billboard will serve as a way-nding landmark to point the way to the Welton
District. The billboard will also create revenue to oset up-front sustainable technology
costs and eventually to oset living costs for the tenants.

Due to the possibility of tall buildings surrounding the site, the sun studies do not show
much direct sun during the year. The full use of wind and wind generators is therefore necessary to oset uses and achieve a Zero Net Energy Building. As inspired by the vacuum created by James Dyson, a cyclone can be used in order to create suction and therefore wind even when the wind is not blowing. This should generate electricity via micro-wind all day and every day. This will also create a pressurized system to aid in a higher air exchange rate for a healthier building.

Vacuum DiagramThe use of the conical shape allows the vacuum to maintain suction while the dirt is separated using centrifugal forces.

ProgramVignette Sketch 1Vignette Sketch 4Vignette Sketch 5Vignette Sketch 7

8:00 AM on the 21st of every month all year8:00 AM on the 21st of every month all year

10:00 AM on the 21st of every month all year10:00 AM on the 21st of every month all year

12:00 PM on the 21st of every month all year12:00 PM on the 21st of every month all year

2:00 PM on the 21st of every month all year2:00 PM on the 21st of every month all year

Site Plan

Section DiagramSketches of abstract design

Character Sketches

The redesign of Cervantes Theater

Jessica Eldredge & Timothy Williams

MISSION: people, prosperity, and the planet

Our mission is to sustainably enrich the social and cultural environment of Five Points and the Welton Street Corridor with the triple bottom line in mind. 


The project’s interaction with existing housing and urban elements and structures is important. The site is located on the north end of the Welton Street Corridor at the Five Points intersection. As the Welton Street Corridor is a Transit Oriented Development, we are taking advantage of its proximity to Denver’s RTD lightrail line, which runs along the Corridor. There is also a lightrail stop at Five Points, which has the potential to become a destination stop for many visitors and current residents.

Site Plan

The Welton Street Corridor development plan is also one that aims to activate the alleyways on either side of the main street as either a pedestrian or bicycle pathway that runs through the corridor. With this in mind, we carefully considered the building’s relation to the alleyway and developed an overall site scheme that links the building itself to both the alley and to Five Points through the use of courtyards.

Concept sketch of the bike alley and rear courtyard

Five Points itself has tremendous potential to be an active zone for both residents and visitors. With this in mind, we wanted our site’s corner of the intersection to interact with the four remaining corners, such that the intersection itself and its surrounding areas could be utilized for events. We also aimed to activate this space by placing the main building entry and urban courtyard/landscape area adjacent to it.


The building morphology is essentially a response to a number of site and programmatic constraints. In an effort to conserve as much of the existing structure as possible, the building morphology begins as a large rectangular volume. From there, a second volume, which is the performance space, is extruded up through the roof of the first. A piece of this volume then breaks away and rotates on a 45 degree angle to address the five points intersection. This volume is the restaurant space which connects to the theater and the urban landscape on the second level. It’s sides, which protrude through the facade at an angle that creates exceptional visibility from anywhere on the corridor, become the marquee for the theater. This volume also marks the entrance into the theater on the first level. In order to maintain a slight palimpsest of  historic Welton Street, we aimed to reuse the existing facade of the Cervantes theater as a sort of screen that contains the volume behind it.

Constraints & Responses


With our project we pay homage to rich the Jazz history and culture of the corridor and aim to reinvigorate the jazz and music scene with a redesign/expansion of the run down Cervantes music venue.

Our project pays special attention to needs of every user group in order to avoid gentrification of the area. With the addition of restaurant to the existing music venue, we aim to bring people to Five Points no matter the time of day.

The music venue itself will host a variety of performances- in addition to weekly free jazz shows (which will be funded by restaurant profit), headline performers of all music type will play at Cervantes in order to cater to any audience regardless of age or background. This musical variety of this venue will appeal to current residents and will aim to bring visitors to the area.

Concept sketch of glowing interior performance venue

Our project will also increase social opportunities and cultural wealth. The venue will connect to a music school/practice center for the community residents to utilize. The venue will also serve as jazz history center for residents and visitors alike to enjoy and learn more the area’s rich cultural history.

However, the venue will no just be used for musical performances; this venue will be flexible: the interior walls open toward exterior courtyards in both the back alley and the front corner so that central “performance” space becomes large open venue for a variety of uses. This multi-functional space can create wealth for the community when used for endless community functions such as: farmers markets, art shows, outdoor/indoor music festivals, etc. The possibilities are endless!

First level preliminary plan showing structure flexibility

More to come….