Colorado Building Workshop Staff: Katherine Hartung
Structural Engineer: Andy Paddock
Lighting Consultant: Blythe von Reckers
Text description provided by the architects. In 2016 the Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS), a not-for-profit organization focusing on outdoor education, continued their partnership with (name withheld). 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.
In the spring 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, tea kettles, 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 evoking a connection with the trees surrounding the site.
Product Description. Prefabricated structurally insulated panels, manufactured by Big Sky R-Control, served as the primary building enclosure for the cabins. The single panel wall assembly reduced construction time and minimized thermal bridging. This product was combined with 3MVHB glazing tape and Oldcastle Low-E glass to create frameless windows.