The TAXI complex is a unique mixed-use community located in north Denver that is comprised of structures formerly used as taxi cab depots. Built to provide offices and manufacturing/sale space to Denver biotech company 3i, this 5,000 sq ft warehouse (previously used as a diesel-repair center) was transformed through locally reclaimed materials and increasing the efficiency of the space.
A second floor mezzanine constructed entirely out of structural reclaimed pallet racks, maple/oak boxcar floorboards, and pillow insulation provides an additional 2,100 sq ft for offices and overviewing the manufacturing/sales space below. Reclaimed hockey glass from the Pepsi Center Arena was also utilized in the mezzanine as well as for sliding office walls.
Originally built of concrete masonry blocks, four bays of CMUs were removed on the east side and replaced with steel framing. Recycled plastic bottles were de-labeled, cut into 6” cylinders, washed/sanitized, and stacked within the framing. Sandwiched between sheets of acrylic, this thermal exterior wall system utilizing 21,000 plastic bottles allows diffused light to enter the entire space, floor to ceiling.
Reclaiming materials and utilizing them in innovative ways made this project immensely fun to work on. I was personally involved in the transformation of the bottle wall--from de-labeling seemingly endless bags of filthy plastic bottles, to cutting, washing, and sanitizing all 21,000 until they were finally placed.
The atmosphere created by this vastly improved (and unique) quality of light from the bottle wall opened up this seemingly cold and industrial space into a beautiful and healthy-feeling work environment
A 5,000 sq ft old diesel repair garage was turned into a gem of a office building for a biotech company utilizing 100% reclaimed materials. These include floor boards of traincars, pallet racks, plastic bottles, and hockey glass from the Denver Pepsi Center professional arena.
2012 Business for the Arts Awards Workspace Finalist
Tres Birds Workshop was nominated for the 2012 Business for the Arts Awark for their use of reclaimed materials and innovative design on the TAXI building.
Thousands of plastic bottles were collected, delabeled, washed, and cut into 6" cylinders to be placed between two sheets of acrylic. By creating thousands of bubbles of dead space, this new translucent wall allows diffused light to wash the existing space built of CMUs with much higher insulation values than typical glazing as well as significantly cheaper.
Built for the microscope manufacturing company 3i, the thousands of bottle bubbles liken the structure of cells. Allowing light to enter the space floor-to-ceiling on two levels dramatically changed the atmosphere of the space inside. This eastern wall was to be utilized as office spaces and provides an exceptional quality of light.
Reclaimed floor boards of train cars were re-planed, sanded, and utilized in the flooring of the second floor, mezzanine, and even a vertical wall below (see next photo).
The mezzanine of the second floor was build entirely upon reclaimed pallet racks--like those that you would find holding products at a hardware supply store.
The process of turning over 21,000 dirty plastic bottles into a lightwall is an intensive one. Bottles were scraped and de-labeled one by one, washed and sanitized, and cut into 6" cylinders using a chopsaw.
The intensive process was also one of trial and error. In the beginning, we were cutting dirty bottles and washing/sanitizing them in a makeshift tank of tarps and concrete blocks. We soon abandoned this process and utilized a commercial dishwasher that cleaned and sanitized over 100 bottles a minute.
Although certainly not the most efficient method, this initial cleaning and "bottle fishing" method was the most entertaining. If you can troubleshoot and think outside the box, you can accomplish anything. Any. Thing.
Rammed Earth Installation
Pyatt Studio // Construction Intern
Built in the evening shadows of Mount Sanitas, Casa Sanitas--a 2,400 sq foot single-family residence--is a medium through which one becomes intrinsically involved in the landscape. Any fenestrations are a lens through which to view the incoming weather off the tips of the mountains or the play of light and shadow against the earthen walls. This house is for living; for cleansing; for touching; for nourishing; for grounding our core as affected beings with the weather, sun, landscape, and community.
Casa Sanitas is the first insulated rammed earth structure in Colorado and responds to the unique climatic conditions through passive solar, geothermal radiant heating and cooling, and is predicted to be net-zero and LEED Platinum. Beyond implementing innovative design strategies to perform efficiently and with least impact, Casa Sanitas is built under the “master builder” tradition where an elevated standard of construction is an integral part of the design.
Beyond implementing innovative design strategies to perform efficiently and with least impact, Casa Sanitas is built under the “master builder” tradition where an elevated standard of construction is an integral part of the design.
As a construction intern, I have learned that there are no shortcuts to building a space that is meant to be experienced 24 hours a day, inside and outside; a space that doesn’t just capture light, shadow, warmth, or breezes for the LEED rating, but for human resonance with this beautiful place.
West rendering of Casa Sanitas by Rob Pyatt of Pyatt Studio in Boulder, Colorado. Thick rammed earth walls are to insulate the north side of the house from heat loss and shaded glass is to capture the low winter sun to the south while a thin strip of clerestory glass runs along the north side. Cedar flitch plate beams support the box corrugated steel butterfly roof.
Southwest rendering of Casa Sanitas by Rob Pyatt of Pyatt Studio in Boulder, Colorado. Glass doors are to open the space to the exterior and to the views of the Sanitas ridgeline.
After much consultation and research, Pyatt Studio began testing compaction and visual appearance of rammed earth samples in July 2010 by varying the amount of iron oxide, and types of Portland Cement.
The proper amount of moisture, Portland Cement, and iron oxide pigment were my responsibility during the mixing of the rammed earth. All soils used were local and mixed onsite. The correct amount of moisture is imperative for solid compaction.
Formwork like that used in cast-in-place concrete is built up, reinforced with steel ties and exterior bracing, and filled with the soil mixture. This process is done in small "lifts" of under a foot deep at a time to ensure maximum compaction. All compaction utilized pneumatic tampers.
In October 2010, we completed all rammed earth tamping and began to take off the forms to reveal the undulating layers of reddish brown earth mass with flecks of mica that picked up the sun in the mornings. The exposed steel ties were later twisted off at the exposed ends.
The entry to Casa Sanitas (massive glass pivot door to be installed years later as well as the exterior cedar decking that runs at floor level). All rammed earth was built on a 24" concrete stem wall. The play of shadows is quite dramatic along the rammed earth walls--washing out the reds in direct sunlight while deepening and enriching them in shadow.
Deep steel windows and plumbing and electrical wiring were built into the formwork and rammed earth so that fixtures come right out of the wall.
On the exterior of the low concrete stem wall, block outs were installed in the formwork and wiring pre-run before the pour to create inset lighting that washes the cedar decking right below it with light as you walk along the entry deck. See this photo for the completion of the cedar deck below in January 2012.
All steel pieces for windows and fascia were hand fabricated and welded onsite.
After the rammed earth, corrugated steel roof, steel fascia, and concrete floor polishing was finished, the cedar deck on the south side of the house begun in November 2011. In winter, the low rays of the sun find their ways underneath the southern deck roof to warm the walls of the house. In the summer, the overhead sun is reflected off the white membrane TPO roof to keep the deck space underneath cool and shaded.
In March 2012 the cedar deck outside of the master and little boys' bedrooms was completed. Many forms of cedar is used on the south side--rough sawn cedar flitch plate posts hold up the deck roof while the exterior walls are to the rough sawn ship lapped cedar planks and the decking is smooth knotty 2x4 cedar lumber. Although fairly soft, cedar is naturally resistant to decay and termites and it's warm tones and pleasant smell make it a great building material.
Barrera House Design
Candid Rogers Studio // Intern Architect
As the project lead, my responsibilities included schematic design, floor planning, site planning, model-making, Auto-CAD drawings, details, and permitting.
Working with the studio's principle Candid Rogers, the design of the Barrera House is a prime example of the firm's reverence of the regional historical architectural that presides in this historic Lavaca neighborhood of San Antonio, Texas. The original house built in 1885 was lovingly restored with a modern addition built behind--designed to have minimal visual impact from the street. The interior utilizes much of the original bones, rafters, and floors while adding a clean white modern wall.
While the TAXI building in Denver utilized the recycled plastic bottles for their thermal and light penetrating qualities, the Quick Left project in Boulder also utilized it's structure as a sound barrier between work spaces. My responsibilities primarily focused on the preparation and installation of the bottle walls and pallet racks.
(From the tres birds website:) Quick Left, software development company, needed a design solution to accommodate their new location and growing business, the main stipulation being health and productivity. Starting with light, tres birds workshop designed the floor plan so that every corner of the office would receive the sun’s replenishing benefits. Existing lighting structures were repositioned for maximum efficiency and the outside windows were stripped of their tinting to allow full sunlight penetration. Addressing indoor air quality, floors were ground down to their primal layer, freeing them of chemical coating, and use of powder coating on workstation bays prevents additional chemical off-gassing. In addition, Quick Left gained one worker who never stops; the garden ‘dirt snake’ is busy round the clock, infusing oxygen and ions into the office environment. Reclaimed material usage was also prevalent throughout the Quick Left project. Surplus pallet racks used to form the frames of workstation bays, with walls made from recycled PET plastic bottles, mitigates sound and aids in transfusing light. Meeting tables were constructed from leftover wall frames of the previous business.