Sustainable Living Development: One River North in Denver

2 February 2023Architecture and Engineering, Connected Construction, Construction, SustainabilityDenver, sustainable design

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Upon first glance at the rendering, it looks like something’s gone amok with the high-rise. Then you realize it’s got trees and plants growing out of the enormous pronged “crack” in the face of the building.

You can see photos of the project at the One River North website

In the midst a construction boom in the downtown Denver, Colorado, neighborhood referred to as the RiNo (RiverNorth) District, you’ll find One River North Residences under construction. When finished in November 2023, the 343,000 square-foot building will feature:

  • three levels of underground parking
  • 8,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor
  • 187 luxury apartments on the fifteen floors above
  • views of the Rocky Mountains
  • fitness center, yoga studio and pet spa
  • rooftop with 6,813 square-feet of pool, spa, garden, and terrace

The distinctive “crack” – designed by MAD Architects to look like a slot canyon – will be a four-story, 13,352 square-foot core containing landscaping, a waterfall and a trail-like walkway. This ten-level rift is described by 5280.com as a biophilic plant-filled design inspired by Colorado hiking trails that merges natural materials with the built environment. It was designed to open up residents’ views, connect people to nature and, as DesignBoom described it, blend the natural world into the urban context.


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Architect-of-Record, Davis Partnership Architects, adapted the landscape design and plant choices for the building’s core to fit the area’s climate, which brings a fair share of sunny days, windy weather, cold winters, and dry summers.

In addition to post-tensioned concrete, the building will use an organic theme, light wood, natural finishes, and raw stone. The building’s glass façade has louvers that regulate sunlight, blending the benefits of natural light and shade. The One River North development company describes the project as a visionary ecosystem of well-being, where residents can benefit from well-balanced city living.

Located across the street from the 38th and Blake RTD light rail station, residents and retail patrons will have adjacent access to sustainable/mass transportation.  

model of gray and white building with plants growing out of sides and roof

Designers used Autodesk Rhino to model the walls of the core, which are created from a prefabricated panelized framework using rebar, mesh and plaster. The Rhino model enabled engineering of rebar thickness, spacing and the bending data. Very early in the project, trade partners for the glazing, mechanical systems, and curtain walls collaborated with each other. As with many downtown Denver projects, the project required dewatering operations during excavation for the underground parking. Reported online in September 2022 by The Architect’s Newspaper, the preconstruction work lasted two years. Early builder involvement was important to track budgets, stay aligned with the project’s vision and work through logistics for building such a unique structure.


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