The 430-Foot Tall Homes

March 9th, 2016

In the 5 years from 2010-2015, median income increased by 4% in Boulder County.  Home prices and rents increased by over 40%.

Construction has begun on the Kestrel development in Louisville, Colorado.  Responding to an urgent and critical need, Kestrel will offer 71 units of senior housing and 129 units of family and senior-friendly multi-family housing to the Louisville community.  More importantly, it will establish a new and uniquely sustainable neighborhood that bridges a set of dissociated semi-urban developments on all four sides.

Kestrel Site Plan 16 0212_web

Kestrel is the result of a very broad collaborative effort brought together by the Boulder County Housing Authority [BCHA].  Humphries Poli Architects has designed the majority of the housing on site while collaborating in the master-planning process.  Master planning and entitlements were led by Barrett Studio Architects of Boulder, Colorado, who also designed a pair of multi-family residential buildings and community center at the southeast quadrant of the site.  Landscape design was by Wenk Associates, while civil engineering was by Olssen Associates.  Finally, Milender-White Construction Company was involved in the design process from the start as a Construction Manager / General Contractor for the project.

BCHA develops its properties with the intent of permanent ownership for the benefit of the residents of the County.  As a permanent owner, it has learned to prioritize durability and sustainability in new developments.  The sustainable design of the Kestrel dwelling units is based on lessons learned through the Paradigm Pilot project, a collaboration between BCHA, the National Renewable Energy Lab, and many other public partners, which compared multiple sustainable building technologies, as well as implementation of geothermal systems on two subsequent housing developments, Josephine Commons and Aspinwall.

geotherm diagramDeep Wells, Deep Sustainability

Geothermal heating and cooling systems are also known as ‘Ground-Source Heat Pumps’.  They use the thermal mass of the earth as a heat exchanger in an extraordinarily efficient heating and cooling system.  In the summertime, heat energy is taken out of the living units and transferred into the ground using a series of 400’ deep wells.  Hot water is pumped through the well inside highly durable tubing.  By the time the water completes its deep journey, it has cooled to the temperature of the ground (which typically remains around 50 degrees in Colorado once you’ve gone more than 5’ down).

In the wintertime, the process works the same, only this time the ground is transferring heat energy into the water which is then used to heat the living units.  In an annual cycle, the ground temperature around the wells heats up through the summer, and is then drawn back down in the winter.

Because of this technology, the homes at Kestrel are literally deep-rooted into the Colorado plains.  The scale drawing to the left shows the 400’ deep well and the 30’ building that draws its heating and cooling from it.  In this sense, they are the tallest buildings that Humphries Poli will design this year – you just don’t see most of them.

Humphries Poli has used geothermal heating and cooling extensively on previous projects such as the Anythink Libraries in Bennett, Commerce City, Perl Mack, and Brighton, Colorado.  It was a key component in the combination of strategies that made Anythink Brighton the first ‘carbon-negative’ library in the nation.

Kestrel is the first case we are aware of where an entire neighborhood has been developed using this technology.  In combination with extraordinarily tight building envelopes, thick insulation, all-LED lighting, and ‘solar-ready’ roofs, the Kestrel development is designed to be capable of going ‘fossil fuel free’ with the installation of a sufficiently sized solar photovoltaic system.  No gas lines are being laid in the new neighborhood; they simply aren’t needed.

Neighborhood Design

All the sustainability features in the book wouldn’t mean much if Kestrel didn’t turn out to be a good place to live.  But this is where it’s going to be most exciting to watch the Kestrel development rise; it is designed as a fine-grained, intergenerational, active-living neighborhood that is deeply rooted in Louisville’s rural past while still looking to the future.  At the heart of the neighborhood, dwellings face out on a central park with landform play features and informal seating.

Alkonis rendering - View 1_Wenk final_brightened_web


The individual blocks of Kestrel are very close in proportion to the blocks of Old Town Louisville.  The four quadrants of the development are threaded together by Kestrel Lane, an ‘alley loop’ that places equal priority on pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular circulation.

As of today, rough site grading is nearing completion while underground utilities are still being installed.  Please watch with us as a wonderful place to live is created for the people of Louisville, Colorado.