Tres Birds’ 52-foot ‘Prism Plane’ gives new life to an old building in Boulder, CO

Imagine a corporate headquarters designed to maximize both human and environmental health. This all-too-rare goal embodies Denver firm Tres Birds’ recent project in Boulder, Colorado for which they reclaimed a nondescript brick 1980s office park building and transformed it into an inspiring place to work. Tres Birds provided full service architecture, interior design, and general contracting.
 
The highlight of the low carbon footprint building is the 52-foot “Prism Plane” wall, a uniquely designed configuration that merges art, science, and the sun to create an architectural kaleidoscope. Custom-fabricated glass panels reflect and radiate spectrums of color onto the walls and ground. The reflections vary as the sun moves across the sky and the seasons change, providing an ongoing radiant color show.
 
The reclamation project took a dark, cloistered building with narrow and convoluted circulation, and turned it into a daylit, energy efficient, flexible, and healthy office space. Tres Birds selectively removed exterior and interior walls to create transparency, views, and a clear sense of circulation through the building. Skylights, glass walls, and a new atrium opening allow the sun to penetrate deeply through the building. In many locations the user receives sunlight from three or four directions simultaneously, creating a happier, healthier workspace for the building’s occupants. Large, clear windows highlight the impressive mountain views in Boulder, all but hidden in the previous configuration of the building.
 
Prism Plane
The folding glass curtain wall inserted into the existing brick façade, dubbed “Prism Plane,” is made from clear and dichroic colored glass. The panes reflect and refract color through and around the building and change with the time of day as well as the angle of the viewer. Each panel is placed at a unique angle to increase the kaleidoscopic effects of the glass. As a 38-foot steel hydraulic door pivots upwards allowing the outdoors in, more reflections and refractions interact with the ground and the curtain wall above. Every day of the year provides a new radiant color show inside and out.

Tres Birds’ architecture project in Boulder, Colorado.

Improved Energy Use
The renovations included improvements in energy use as well. A 60kW photovoltaic array was installed on the roof, windows were upgraded to double pane low-e IGUs, and low flow Kohler plumbing fixtures were installed. The use of LED lighting with full dimming control zones allows the use of artificial lighting only where necessary at any point during the day.
 
Outdoor Garden and Workspace
Whenever possible, Tres Birds converts fossil-fuel-heavy parking lots into green gardens for the dual benefits of oxygen production and reclaiming natural space. At Prism Plane, the former parking lot and loading area was transformed into an outdoor space with seating and a garden. The outdoor workspace allows employees to take advantage of Boulder’s gentle weather and work in an inspiring environment.
 
Now unrecognizable from its stodgy past, Tres Birds has created a building that offers workers open, light-filled space both indoors and out to enhance health, comfort, and productivity. 

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