Recent studies have analysed and concluded that architectural and design encouragement towards non-shared spaces and private settlements has impacted many aspects, like- More land use for inhabitation, increasing cost for settlement units, and growing disconnectivity in social interaction are all the impacts of the practiced architectural and design patterns that evolved in the mid-era. Taking all these factors as the problems, Co-Housing Denver sets a perfect example as a solution.

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Human-eye level view of Co-Housing Denver _©Abitare
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PRODUCTORA architects (Carlos Bedoya, Wonne Ickx, Víctor Jaime, Abel Perles) _©PRODUCTORA

Co-Housing Denver by PRODUCTORA is an experimental project located in the first belt of the low-density neighbourhood surrounding downtown Denver only two miles from the city centre. It has been nominated for the (MCHAP)- Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize 2022.

Project Name- Co-Housing Denver.
Year- 2021
Location- Denver, Colorado, USA.
Surface- 3627.44 sqft.
Typology- Residential
Architectural Design- PRODUCTORA (Carlos Bedoya, Wonne Ickx, Víctor Jaime, Abel Perles) in collaboration with Joe Dooling (DDB)
Photography- Onnis Luque

Analysis suggesting strategies and objectives.

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Co-Housing Denver surrounded by Suburban Context _©Designboom

Analysing the comfort and lifestyle of the inhabitants of Denver, while integrating within the morphology of the suburban environment, PRODUCTORA made the strategy for low-cost housing for students’ cohabitation, singles, and blended families around the city centre.

The objectives regarding the design of Co-Housing Denver were kept very minimal and compatible with all types of inhabitants. Objectives like- Low-cost housing that gave a clear direction to the project to be built with a very limited budget of 200 USD/ sqft using economical construction materials and standard solutions. Another objective that PRODUCTORA focused on was integrating social interaction without hampering privacy.The Site and Design decisions.

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Site and Context plan of Co-Housing Denver _©Archello
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Front view of Co-Housing Denver _©PRODUCTORA

The site consists of a 50 feet wide parcel divided into two equal lots. Concerning local zoning codes, they figured out the possibility of building the main house and an accessory dwelling unit on each lot. In collaboration with a local architect and contractor Joe Dooling (DDB), Co-Housing Denver- a bright blue steel structure was developed within the framework of Biennial of Americas, a Pan-American festival of art and culture, and Continuum partners.

Motivation and philosophy

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The view showing the shared pathway connecting adjacent units of Co-Housing Denver _©PRODUCTORA

About the motivation for the project architects said- “ The Co-Housing Denver reflects its concern and respect towards the fact that the larger single-family residences in the preferred locality or neighbourhood are often shared by roommates and friends and this was designed to cater to those needs”.

Design detailings of Co-Housing Denver by PRODUCTORA

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The plan showing the ground floor of the units of Co-Housing Denver _©PRODUCTORA
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The plan showing the first floor of the units of Co-Housing Denver _©PRODUCTORA
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The plan showing the mezzanine floor of the units of Co-Housing Denver _©PRODUCTORA

They organized each front house into 3 studios, each with its bathroom and kitchenette and larger communal living spaces; they managed to have eight units in a total of six studios in the front house and two split-level artist studios in  Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADUs) towards the alley.

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Details of the pitched roof of Co-Housing Denver _©PRODUCTORA

Architects tried to replicate a typical form of a North-American style dwelling with additions to recognizable and differentiable coloured material for a pitched roof. The roof volumes are clad with a standing seam metal roof in a standard blue colour and a board and batten façade with different vertical intervals and tones of blue, to make the minimal, child-life house shape, a recognizable element. 

Additionally, architects mentioned the choice of colour- it is the standard colour in which materials are available, which allowed them to reduce construction costs while respecting the objective of low-cost housing. Matching the roofs, the exterior facades are clad in vertical boards and battens finished in a similar hue to compliment the entire colour theme and make it look minimal yet attractive.

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Front elevation of Co-Housing Denver_©PRODUCTORA
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Rear elevation of Co-Housing Denver_©PRODUCTORA
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The view showing the possibility of the applied social interaction through glazed facade_©PRODUCTORA

Though the entire project of Co-Housing Denver was restricted to a very low budget and buildable volume, the architecture has a generous and spacious feel. The front houses were designed with double-height entrance areas to contribute to the light-filled and unpretentious living spaces. The communal kitchen and living areas have large glazed surfaces to offer the interiors more natural light and encourage interaction with each other.

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Section showing all the proposed spaces in Co-Housing Denver_©PRODUCTORA
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Section showing all the proposed spaces in ADU of Co-Housing Denver_©PRODUCTORA

The upper floor studios take advantage of the pitched roof volume creating high-ceiling living areas and a sleeping mezzanine accessible by a ladder. The split-level ADUs received a roll-up garage door creating a workshop-like atmosphere and a direct connection with the outdoors during the warm summer months.

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The roll-up garage door in ADU of Co-Housing Denver_©PRODUCTORA

Materials used in the construction of Co-Housing Denver.

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The external and internal façade of Co-Housing Denver_©PRODUCTORA
  • Façade Cladding- For Wall construction, they used a 25/ 50 mm cover strip of wood composite along with 6 mm fibre cement panel cladding vapour with permeable windbreak foil, plasterboard of 16 mm coated with glass fibre, timber studs of 50/150 mm. Between the timber studs, a 16 mm plasterboard of 16 mm with 150 mm of glass wool as a thermal insulation vapour barrier was installed.
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The mezzanine floor in the pitched roof accessible by a ladder in Co-Housing Denver_©PRODUCTORA
  • Flooring-
  • For the Ground floor, they used a reinforced concrete slab of 76 mm, 50 mm of pressure-resistant thermal insulation and compacted gravel of 100 mm into the ground.
  • For the upper level and gallery level, they made a lime-stone-based subfloor on the Oriented strand board (OSB) panel of 16 mm above the G-beam laminated veneer lumber/OSB with plywood of 12 mm and a plasterboard of 16 mm. Additionally, to give the flooring a look of a wooden finish, they added a wood-look floor covering of 16 mm on both levels.
  • For the mezzanine level, they made a limestone-based sub-floor on a timber beam of 50/203 mm and OSB panel of 16 mm along with a sufficient crawl space. Similarly to the upper level and gallery level, they added a wood-look floor covering of 16 mm for the mezzanine level as well.
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The view shows a glazed façade, folding wooden doors and windows to encourage social interaction_©PRODUCTORA
  • Doors and windows- They installed 2 folding wooden doors 1.5’ x 7’ in white laminated wood. Windows for thermal glazing in pine frames were installed.
  • Roofing- for the roof construction, they used OSB sheeting beams of 16 mm in laminated veneer lumber/ OSB with PU foam insulation of 75 mm between them. Along with this, they used standing seam sheets in steel and powder-coated bitumen seal for ensuring the reliability of the roof. They also installed plasterboard of 16 mm and 241 mm glass wool for thermal insulation- vapour barrier.
  • Interior lighting- for interiors they installed 7W ORION ceiling lamps and 13W ORION wall mounted lamps of brand Estevez. For bathroom mirror light they installed Palermo 1200 of brand Astro lighting.
  • Interior furniture- Wooden countertop and white laminated wood base are used for the kitchenette Of Co-Housing Denver.
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Co-Housing Denver_©PRODUCTORA

Sustainability

In 2020, Natgeo UK recognized Denver as the 4th most sustainable destination in the world. The city of Denver focuses on sustainable development and infrastructure. Co-Housing Denver is also an example of sustainable architecture. Generation of less waste while construction, more reuse and recycling of available materials for different purposes, better reliability, less maintenance and greater user satisfaction along with lower life-cycle environmental impacts and costs, Co-Housing Denver simply makes itself a perfect example of sustainable architecture.

Aerial view of Co-Housing Denver_©PRODUCTORA

Architects said- “Integration of shared spaces like kitchen and living room, Laundry areas, a powder room and paved outdoor areas, the project stages a subtle balance between the need for privacy and the possibility of social interaction”. Co-Housing Denver proves to offer an intermingling lifestyle of both the flavours of living and workspaces. It promises comfort and flexibility respecting diverse family structures and their custom arrangements. Design that not only blends with its planning and interiors but also smooth collaborations with the neighbourhood proves that architects not only focused on the recognizability of the structure but also took care of the neighbourhood at the same time.

References:

  • PRODUCTORA (2021) [ Online]

Available at- http://PRODUCTORA-df.com.mx/en/project/co-housing-denver/

  • Archello (2022) [Online]

Available at- https://archello.com/project/co-housing-denver

  • Denver.org [Online]

Available at- https://www.denver.org/meetings/denver-info/sustainable-meetings/denver-sustainability/

Author

Ayushi Samarth is a freshly graduate architect. Reading, understanding and writing upon the analysis made have always been the keen interests of Ayushi. She has always been curious in understanding the impact of social issues on architecture and design. Dealing with the theory of user and context interaction with architecture and narrating the story of architecture always has her attention.

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