tres birds workshop
Denver, Colorado, USA
Project Year

Art Galleries
Brooks Freehill


tres birds workshop as Architects

The Gilpin project is a private creative office and art studio and is the latest in the progression of tres birds workshop projects that incorporate renewable energy; other buildings in this progression include: The Good Building, Quivas, Swoon). Gilpin extracts its own natural energy from the sun and subterranean (geothermal) resources.

Over the years, tres birds workshop has accumulated a robust knowledge base of energy efficiency building practices. In addition to projects that integrate renewable energy systems, every tres birds workshop design is run through a filter of energy efficiency to include thinking about how the building is made, how building materials are used, sunlight position/ daylighting, insulation and vegetation. We consider reducing the reliance on fossil fuels a primary goal in the making, using and lifetime of buildings. 

Starting with an existing building, which is always the most efficient way to go, the gas line to Gilpin was cut off at the source and designed for renewable resources, geothermal and PV solar, instead. Geothermal is used to most efficiently heat and cool this large-volume space, while the PV runs the the heat pumps, artificial lighting, and plug loads. Cutting off the gas line is an optimistic move for the future. If we would have designed the building to rely on natural gas, then it always would have. For further energy conservation, a vampire switch was installed, which controls a separate electrical circuit for items that can be turned off at night (computers, coffee maker, auxiliary lights, etc). 

Next, the insulation approach was considered. Typically, 80% of thermal loss happens in the first four feet of the parameter of the flooring. High density rigid foam was used to seal the flooring from underneath. Prior to the floor being sealed, however, it was removed. This was to allow for drilling seven geothermal wells at 400 feet each. An interior atrium had been planned, so by cutting a hole in the roof, where the atrium would eventually go, a 30 ft. geothermal drill could fit inside the building. The issue of using geothermal drills in a dense residential and commercial area was circumvented. 

The other reason for removing the floor ahead of time was to place the entire heating, cooling, electrical, and data system into the bottom part of the building, whereas these systems are typically fixed to the ceiling. Inside, the barrel ceiling is shaped by aged wood and a bowed support structure. Through the application of an integrated design, we were able to switch the staus quo, liberating the openness and beauty of the space. The only building finishes introduced were glass and reclaimed boxcar flooring.

To bring in the daylight, a central atrium was created by cutting into the middle of the building, reducing the amount of square footage. What was lost in real estate is made up for with a healthy dose of sunlight and an immediate connection to nature. The part of the building that was the darkest (the core), is now the lightest, extending light into the entire space. Enclosed by 8 ft. glass sliding doors, the atrium is grounded by the Earth and opens to the sky. Vegetation and trees will be planted directly into the dirt. During the winter months, building inhabitants will see snow from the inside and on warm days, when the doors can be opened, fresh air circulates throughout. LED lighting was installed throughout the roof and atrium in discrete fashion. At night, when the LED lights are switched on, the atrium acts as a lantern.

Material Used :

1. AAE Solar& Lumo - Photovoltaic array

2. Colorado Geothermal& Geo Source Distributors - Geothermal systems

3. AIA Skylights

4. Jesco - LED strip lighting

5. Phillips Lightolier - LED track lighting

6. SLV Lighting - Exterior lighting

Project team
Product Specifications
Philips Lighting SignifyPhilips Lighting SignifyLED track lighting
GeoSource DistributorsGeothermal systems
Jesco LightingLED strip lighting
SLVSLVExterior lighting

Popular specified products in Commercial projects

Porsche Museum
next project

Porsche Museum

Stuttgart, Germany - Build completed in 2009
View Project

Want to see more like this?

Subscribe to Archello's newsletter