Program in Environmental Design

University of Colorado Boulder

Michael Tavel

Senior Instructor
(720) 317-3700
Office: 144


Tavel is a nationally recognized architect and urban designer in Denver specializing in sustainable urban neighborhoods and architecture.  His work emphasizes climate-responsive solutions that reduce resource demands and support sustainable cultural practices.  Projects include the Geos Net-Zero Energy Neighborhood - designed with Senior Instructor David Kahn – which won the 2009 National ASLA Honor Award and the 2010 Colorado Sustainable Design Award.  Greensburg Green Neighborhoods won the 2010 AIA Colorado Honor Award.  Other projects have won awards from Progressive Architecture, the National AIA, HUD, the Colorado Renewable Energy Society, Colorado Housing Now, Historic Boulder, and The Rocky Mountain News. Tavel lectures at national conferences on sustainable urban neighborhood design and has addressed university and government audiences in Europe, Africa, and South America.  He won the top prize in architectural design at UC Berkeley in 1989, a one-year travelling fellowship.  Before graduate school he interned as an architect in Toledo, Ohio and New York City. Following graduate school he worked for internationally known architects Christopher Alexander in Berkeley, Mark Mack in San Francisco, and Heinz Tesar in Vienna, Austria before moving to teach at UC Denver in 1991.  From 1993 to 2000 he ran a summer study abroad program in Urban Design in Prague.  He was a founding board member of the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Denver in the mid ‘90s and remains active in numerous professional and community organizations in Colorado.


  • BA Art, Magna Cum Laude, Honors Program, University of Toledo, Ohio, 1985.
  • BS Interdepartmental Studies (Civil Structural Engineering and Social Sciences), Magna Cum Laude, Honors Program, University of Toledo, Ohio, 1985
  • Masters of Architecture with numerous honors, University of California, Berkeley, 1991.

Research Interests

  • Climate responsive urban development patterns and systems
  • Morphologies of urban density
  • Design that supports environmental literacy and sustainable cultural practices
  • Traditional environments
  • Early 20thcentury European social housing estates
  • Urban mixed-use building types, development patterns, and transportation
  • Urban hydrology
  • Urbanism as an emergent processes
  • Openness of interpretation and the poetics of experience

Courses Taught

  • 3300 Ecological Urbanism studio and seminar
  • 3300 Green Neighborhood Design studio and seminar
  • 3310 Introductory Architecture Studio
  • 2120 Introductory Urbanism Studio
  • 4364 Sustainable Urbanism Seminar

Selected Publications

  • Mark DeKay and G. Z. Brown, Sun, Wind, and Light: Architectural Design Strategies, 3rd Edition, Wiley, January 2014

  • The Passivhaus Designer’s Manual edited by Christina Hopfe and Rob McLeod, Routledge.  2014.

  • JoAnna Williams, Zero Carbon Homes: A Roadmap, Routledge, 2011.

  • “Climate-Responsive Urbanism: Historic Precedents and Progressive Practice,” in Journal of the 2011 Portland Urban Architectural Research Laboratory International Symposium, 2012.

  • “A Case Study in Patterns for Sustainable Urbanism: The Geos Net-Zero Energy Neighborhood,” in Current Challenges for Patterns, Pattern Languages & Sustainability: Journal of the 2009 Portland Urban Architectural Research Laboratory Symposium, 2010.

  • “Geos Net Zero Energy Neighborhood,” Landscape World Vol 24, Seoul South Korea.  2009

  • Co-author, Colorado Urbanizing, Colorado Chapter of the Congress of New Urbanism, in association with CNU 17 national conference.  2009

  • Cold War Hangovers: Planning in Prague’s Post-Communist Landscape, in Architecture: Material and Imagined, ACSA Press  1997

  • Open Contact: Phenomenal Experience and “Natural” Processes, in Ecology, Aesthetics and Design, National ASLA  1994

  • Socio-Cultural Irrigation for the Periphery of Paris, in Paris – Architecture et Utopie: Projects d’urbanisme pour l’entrée dans le 21eme siècle, Berlin  1989

  • Open/Closed, in Oblong 3, Regents of the University of California, Berkeley  1989