Colorado Outward Bound School Year-Round Micro Cabins 2016

Date: 8/8/2016
Others Involved: Structural Engineer: Andy Paddock Student Researchers: Joshua Allen Andrew Baur Devyn Bernal Michael Black Leigh Bryant Craig Dunn Amanda Gonzales Anna Griffith Jeffrey Heger Jim Hillard Kyle Hoehnen Andrea Kelchlin Jesse Ledin Amie McDermott Tanner Morrow Nina Najmabadi Kyle Plantico Christopher Powell Genevieve Rogers Mike Schauble Andrew Schrag Diana Souders Henry Spiegel Samantha Strang Catrina Weissbeck Tyler Whaley Brittany Wheeler Ryan Wresch Faculty Advisor: Rick Sommerfeld
Will Koning
JD Signom

In 2016 the Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS), a not-for-profit organization focusing on outdoor education, continued its partnership with University of Colorado Denver’s ColoradoBuildingWorkshop. This second group of 28 students designed and built seven insulated cabins for year-round use. The cabins were intertwined within the same village housing boundaries as the 14 seasonal cabins constructed in 2015; deep within a lodgepole pine forest, 10,000 feet above sea level, and accessible only by a narrow dirt road.

Students were required to conduct a critical architectural inquiry into materiality, structure, light, context, environment, and program to create innovative solutions to prefabricated, accelerated-build, micro housing. Each 200 square foot cabin was required to house one or two residences and be powered by a single electrical circuit. The circuit provides lighting, heating and a series of receptacles with the capacity to charge technology and small appliances (mini refrigerators, teakettles, coffee pots, etc). A central staff lodge is accessible to the residences for bathing, cooking, and laundry.

With an average annual temperature of 35o Fahrenheit the seven all-season structures were required to meet the standards of the International Energy Conservation Code climate zone 7&8 (the coldest zone in the United States). Inspired by quinzees, a snow shelter made from a hollowed out pile of snow, the students adapted the logic of “snow insulation” for their structures. The cabins employ structurally insulated panels (SIPs) for the walls and flat roofs. The roofs are designed to hold the snow in the winter, providing an additional R-20 to R-30 of insulation depending on the depth of the snow. A single electrical circuit powers each structure. This is accomplished by the small cabin footprints, LED lighting, and the super insulation of the SIPs combined with the snow’s natural insulation. This efficiency reflects the school’s commitment to the environment.

The orientation and articulation of each of the seven cabins react individually to the immediate site conditions present in the landscape. No two cabins are alike. Hot rolled steel cladding provides a low maintenance rain screen for the structure. The cladding and the vertical columns of the moment frame below blend with the pine forest, minimizing the visual impact. Cedar clad front and back porches are carved from the main mass to create entry and private outdoor spaces for the more introverted, permanent COBS staff. The cabin interiors are skinned in birch plywood bringing warmth to the structure and a connection with the trees surrounding the site.

2016 American Architecture Prize, Student Architecture
2016 American Architecture Prize, Gold-Small Architecture
2016 American Architecture Prize, Silver-Social Housing
2016 Residential Architect Design Awards (RADA)
2016 WAN Metal in Architecture Awards, Shortlisted

College of Architecture and Planning

CU Denver

CU Denver Building

1250 14th Street


Denver, CO 80202


CMS Login