Biodesign Institute leads green-building wave for Arizona biosciences

August 22, 2007

By hammersmith

The newest facility for the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University has been certified as one of the country’s most environmentally sensitive buildings. Biodesign’s Building B, which opened in 2006, is the first building in Arizona to receive platinum certification from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). But hot on Biodesign’s heels are other new biosciences facilities going green. 

Biodesign adopted design and construction approaches for Building B that reduced waste, maximized use of recycled and local materials, minimized water and energy consumption—and thus operating costs—and took a variety of steps to ensure a healthful environment for the scientists who work there. Cumulatively, these actions fulfilled enough prerequisites and yielded enough “credits” to earn USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-platinum certification.

“The certification sends a message that ASU leadership cares about the health of the building’s users and employees,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of USGBC. “Everyone’s comfort, safety, and well-being will benefit from the fresh air and natural daylight.”

Building B’s urinals use no water, its carpet is made of recycled content, and its terrazzo floors incorporate locally sourced river rock. A central atrium skylight provides natural light to all four floors of the building, and occupancy sensors automatically control artificial lighting. Condensation from the air conditioning system provides water for the landscaping around the building, an exterior shade system for the building’s south and west sides reduces cooling costs, and reflective surfaces on the building’s roof and parking lot reduce the absorption of heat from the desert sun. And, boosting LEED credits related to urban planning, a light-rail stop will be a short walk away, encouraging building users to use mass transit.

Biodesign’s decision to pursue LEED-platinum designation for the $78.5-million, 175,000-square-foot Building B began with the design and construction process for the slightly smaller, $72-million Building A, which opened in 2004. The Institute’s first building had not initially sought LEED certification, but nevertheless ultimately achieved LEED-gold status, one step below platinum. The two buildings are joined by glass walkways on all four levels.

ASU ultimately plans to construct two more adjacent and conjoined buildings at an additional cost of $200 million, bringing the facilities’ total size to some 800,000 square feet. Although planners have not yet revealed whether they will pursue platinum certification for those buildings, they will be part of a larger green movement: ASU has adopted a goal of all new university construction meeting LEED standards.

Though Building B is ahead of the curve—only about 50 buildings worldwide have received platinum designation, all since 2000—the trend in Arizona toward environmentally sensitive buildings for the biosciences is accelerating. In addition to the Biodesign buildings, the 21 LEED-certified buildings statewide include Yavapai College’s agribusiness science and technology building (LEED silver) in Chino Valley and ASU’s Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 1 (LEED silver) in Tempe.

Nau's Applied Research & Development buildingSome 175 other Arizona projects at various stages of design and construction have registered for and are awaiting LEED certification. Among this group are Northern Arizona University’s Applied Research and Development (ARD) Facility in Flagstaff, which is in line to become Arizona’s second LEED-platinum building, and the Papago Gateway Center in Tempe, which would be the Valley’s first privately developed speculative office and research facility to earn LEED certification.

Construction has been completed on the ARD Facility, and NAU officials are hoping to receive notice of the building’s platinum designation in time for its grand-opening ceremony on Sept. 27. The 60,000-square-foot building will house the genetics lab of Paul Keim—who also serves as director of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) North facility in Flagstaff—as well as headquarters for several NAU and associated federal-government programs, along with the university’s Vice President for Research.

Innovations that will help elicit LEED-platinum certification for the ARD Facility include: “enthalpy wheels” installed in the building’s air handling units that extract heat from exhaust air to pre-heat fresh air from the outside; a southwest-northeast orientation that maximizes wintertime sunlight penetration; the use of wood from a sustainable forest within Arizona; and a roof covered with native vegetation that will insulate the building, reduce the “heat island” effect typical of large roofs, and will require little or no supplemental irrigation after its initial establishment.

Papago Gateway CenterThe Papago Gateway Center, a $100 million, 265,000-square-foot lab and office building privately developed by Chesnut Properties of Del Mar, Calif., is on target to complete construction by the end of 2007. The building overlooking Tempe’s Town Lake will offer sophisticated research space—wet labs—that Arizona has historically lacked beyond the confines of its universities.

Mark Stratz, of Grubb and Ellis, the real-estate firm seeking tenants for the building, said that the building’s high-tech capacity, its environmentally friendly design, and its location—on the forthcoming light-rail corridor and close to ASU, Sky Harbor Airport, and downtown Phoenix—together make the development an attractive option for the firms Grubb and Ellis is targeting nationwide and internationally.

Stratz said he is also promoting the Papago Gateway Center’s participation in a USGBC program that, based on design and planning decisions, “pre-certifies” facilities expected to meet LEED standards. Prospective tenants, he said, have been drawn to visit the site after learning that it is LEED silver pre-certified. (Chesnut expects LEED gold certification once the building opens.)

Perhaps most dramatic among the Papago Gateway Center’s design elements will be its exterior “double-skin” louver system, a complex of perforated-aluminum shades along the building’s southern, western, and eastern exposures. Over the course of a day, sensors on the building’s roof will track the sun and adjust the shades to maximize indirect light penetration while minimizing heat absorption, substantially increasing the building’s energy efficiency.

While the Papago Gateway Center should be the first LEED-certified building for Chesnut Properties, Mike Hadden, the developer’s General Manager of Arizona Operations, predicted that it will not be the last. “We anticipate every project from here out will be LEED,” he said.

For more information:

ASU Biodesign named one of country’s top ‘green’ buildings,” Arizona Republic, 08/03/2007

Biodesign Institute news release, 08/01/2007

NAU ARD Building Fact Sheet

Former resident spending $100M on Tempe biotech complex,” East Valley Tribune, 07/21/2007