Populus: new milestone for sustainable travel with ECOPact inside

Holcim US partnered with Urban Villages, a leading real estate developer and environmental steward, and The Beck Group, the largest integrated design-build firm in the United States, to build Populus, a hotel in Colorado, USA. An innovative ECOPact low-carbon concrete mix brought down overall construction emissions by almost one quarter. Set to open in summer 2024, Urban Villages has committed to making Populus the first carbon-positive hotel project in the USA.

ECOPact reduced embodied carbon of the concrete by 765 tons compared to traditional concrete

ECOPact mixes account for 65% of the total volume of concrete used

Populus setting new standards for sustainable travel

The Challenge 


The real estate sector has the opportunity to more directly address the urgency of climate change while also meeting the preferences of today’s eco-conscious consumers and travelers. More and more sustainable building solutions are available on the market to enable the world to build better with less. 

Opening itself to the city and to the Rocky Mountains, the soon-to-open Populus hotel is designed to become an energetic new social center in downtown Denver, Colorado. Conceived by Urban Villages and designed by Studio Gang – named among Architectural Digest’s AD100 since 2017 and led by Jeanne Gang, a MacArthur Fellow and Wall Street Journal’s 2022 Architecture Innovator – Populus’ design is inspired by nature and Colorado’s native Aspen tree, Populus Tremuloides. 

That is why it was of paramount importance to build this hotel in the most sustainable way possible and help preserve nature’s beauty.

The Solution 


Holcim partnered with The Beck Group and Urban Villages, the developers behind Populus, to ensure the reduction of the project’s carbon footprint in both the development and operational stages. 

Holcim’s innovative and low-carbon ECOPact concrete, which offers a minimum of 30% lower CO2 emissions compared to standard concrete, is one of many ways Populus is achieving its sustainability goals. With approximately 3,900 cubic meters (5,100 cubic yards) of concrete used for the project’s superstructure beams, slabs and other components, ECOPact mixes account for 65% of the total volume. 

Strict specifications demanded intense testing and verification of Holcim’s product performance to meet the project’s environmental goals. The innovative nature of the project required highly coordinated planning, product education and collaboration among the developer, contractor and Holcim teams.

At Urban Villages, our metric for success is not just the projects we build; it’s measured by how well we’re stewarding the real estate industry towards a greener future. By showcasing how projects can use creative solutions like low-carbon concrete to reduce carbon emissions, we’re laying the groundwork for other developers to replicate and help leave our planet in a better place.

Grant McCargo| Urban Villages’ Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer

The results

By using ECOPact for Populus’ development, the embodied carbon of the concrete is expected to be 765 tons less than traditional concrete, minimizing the hotel’s carbon footprint. According to Holcim’s Global Warming Potential (GWP) savings calculator, the use of ECOPact in this building represents an overall 24% reduction in CO2 emissions of the total concrete volume, as compared to regional averages – the equivalent of eliminating more than 1.5 million miles driven by an average passenger vehicle. 

Upon completion, Populus will set a new milestone for sustainable travel and serve as a stunning architectural landmark forever altering Denver’s skyline. It will have 265 modern guest rooms and dynamic social areas, including a ground floor restaurant, flexible event spaces, coffee bar, and a signature rooftop bar and restaurant with an expansive garden terrace planted with regional vegetation, which serves as a lush place to socialize while naturally cooling the building and providing a habitat for wildlife.

We’re transforming global sustainability standards for our industry. Projects like Populus, one of the first hotels of its kind in the United States, show how building materials are a vital part of the sustainability solution. We’re driven to find ways to decarbonize buildings across their entire lifecycles to mitigate the impact of today’s growing population and rising urbanization, and we’re thrilled to partner with Urban Villages to help bring the construction of Populus to life.

Toufic Tabbara| Region Head of North America at Holcim

How Populus becomes “carbon positive” 

Urban Villages defines “carbon positive” as a commitment to sequester more carbon in biomass and soil than the combined embodied and operational footprints of Populus across its entire life cycle. Though the hotel itself doesn't sequester carbon (the process of capturing and storing CO2 from the atmosphere) its most beautiful external feature does — the newly planted forest. Rather than merely purchasing carbon credits, the hotel has planted more than 70,000 trees (Engelmann Spruce, a tree previously diminished in the region by beetle kill) in partnership with One Tree Planted and the U.S. Forest Services in Gunnison, Colorado. 

According to the 8 Billion Trees calculator, assuming the trees are close to two years old, that means this mini forest can store 305 tons of carbon, allowing "876,960 people to breathe for an entire day."


We are making sustainable construction possible at scale around the world – from Zurich to New York and Mexico City to Manila – with our innovative and sustainable building solutions. 

Since concrete is infinitely recyclable, versatile and resilient, we are continually innovating to make low-carbon concrete the building material for a net-zero future. Our ECOPact concrete offers significant CO2 reductions without compromising on performance. 

Learn more about how we are decarbonizing building across its entire lifecycle:

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