Populus, Denver, US: One thing guests will miss at this first carbon-positive hotel

Construction has begun on a new downtown Denver stay, on track to be the USA's first carbon-positive hotel.

Called Populus, the striking wedge-shaped building is located on the site of Colorado's first gas station – what the project's chief development officer Jon Buerge is calling "poetic justice".

"We're building the greenest building in Denver, and it has no parking," the executive for eco-conscious Urban Villages told Fast Company.

The 265-room hotel is slated for a 2023 opening, with the building's striking aesthetic already generating a buzz in design circles.

Building renders from Chicago-based firm Studio Gang show a façade inspired by Colorado's native aspen trees (its unique Swiss cheese window design takes inspiration from the tree's unique natural trunk patterns).

Deep windows help to naturally shade rooms and keep them cool, while roof solar panels help to partially power the building.

Each vertical scallop runs the width of a hotel room, offering guests expansive views of the nearby State Capitol and the mountains beyond.

The 14-storey building also uses low-carbon concrete, but minimises its use by leaving out parking spaces entirely. The move aims to encourage guests to ditch the car and take a train instead (a transport hub across the road eliminates any need for a vehicle).

As well as embracing an eco-friendly design, the developers have committed to planting a whole forest – 5000 acres of trees – to offset a carbon footprint equivalent to 500,000 gallons of gas.


Urban Village's co-founder and CEO Grant McCargo said the launch of the property is significant for the city in numerous ways.

"Not only will Populus be the country's first carbon-positive hotel, it will also be a stunning architectural landmark by Studio Gang that will forever alter Denver's skyline and contribute to the architectural legacy of the entire Mountain West," said the developer.

Populus also aims to follow the US Green Building Council's points system to achieve LEED Gold certification, with points allocated based on potential environmental impact, human benefits and innovation in design.

The landmark hotel will form part of the revitalisation of Civic Centre Park in Denver, while also offering environmental benefits, McCargo said.

"Denver has a true appreciation for nature, and this is reflected in all aspects of Populus, from its aspen tree-inspired design to its unobstructed mountain views, and to being carbon-positive and setting a new precedent for sustainable travel everywhere," said McCargo.

Setting a new benchmark in environmental hotel design, Buerge said the hotel aims to inspire change, and meet the modern consumer's preference to travel responsibly, and connect with nature and each other.

"An earth emergency demands that we strengthen our influence, and Populus is just the beginning," he said.

Last month, Six Senses announced it would take on management of the much-written-about Svart hotel in northern Norway, on track to be the world's first energy-positive hotel when it opens in 2024.

The spaceship-like property, designed by Snøhetta, is located at the foot of a glacier in the Arctic Circle, and is entirely off-grid and carbon neutral.

The property is built on poles over the pristine waters of the Holandsfjorden fiord, and harvests enough solar energy to feed back into the system – covering the energy needs of both the hotel and adjacent operations, as well as the construction of the building itself.