A Denver-based developer used Earth Day to announce that a new hotel downtown will be “carbon positive.” The developer will account for and offset the carbon emissions from the materials used, the transport of the materials and the building’s operation.

Grant McCargo, CEO and chief environmental officer of Urban Villages, and Jon Buerge, chief development officer and partner, said before Friday’s announcement that they believe the Populus, which will be adjacent to Denver’s Civic Center Park, will be the first hotel of its kind in the U.S.

“There couldn’t be a more fittingly appropriate day for what we’re calling a carbon-positive hotel,” McCargo said.

The terms “carbon neutral” and “net zero” are more commonly used when talking about trying to reduce and offset emissions from produced by buildings. Carbon positive can mean going beyond cutting emissions to produce environmental benefits, such as producing more renewable energy than the one building can use.

“Carbon positive means the total lifecycle of the building is offset versus just the operating of it,” McCargo said. “I hope this project will cause a lot of stir.”

Buildings are responsible for 40% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, according to Colorado-based RMI, a research and consulting firm focused on energy efficiency and sustainability.

The location and look of the building will also be attention-getting. The 265-room,13-story building on a corner at 14th Street and Colfax Avenue will be triangle-shaped and its outside design will evoke the aspen trees that make for some of Colorado’s most scenic vistas. It’s scheduled to open in late 2023.

The hotel’s name, Populus, comes from the scientific name for quaking aspen: Populus tremuloides. The firm Studio Gang is the architect on the project.

McCargo said Studio Gang looks to nature as a model for design and is a leader in making a building’s carbon footprint as light as possible.

On its website, the architectural firm says the design for the shape of the hotel’s windows are like the characteristic patterns on aspen trees. “As the trees grow, they shed their lower branches, leaving behind dark, eye-shaped marks on the papery bark of their trunks.”

The exterior “lids” of each window stretch outward according to the position of the sun to shade the interior and they channel rainwater to keep the facade looking fresh. The $100 million-plus hotel will be Studio Gang’s first project in Colorado, according to Urban Villages.

The developers considered using laminated timber to build the hotel, but there were complications. McCargo said Urban Villages will use recycled material, low-carbon concrete mixes and fewer finish materials.

The effort to avoid and reduce emissions will include calculating the carbon produced from transporting materials. McCargo said Urban Villages will work with third parties to verify the calculations. It will partner with Boulder-based Stok to offset its carbon emissions by planting about 5,000 acres of trees in strategically important areas.



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