In light of the increasing significance of environmental and ecological programs in the new economy, the Arizona Board of Regents had established the interdisciplinary Center for Sustainable Environments (CSE) at Northern Arizona University. The Center serves as a catalyst for many on and off campus projects, and has a direct and immediate impact on the community and the regional economy.
Since its initiation, CSE has developed over twenty partnerships, and this rapid expansion has created a need for additional research space on the Northern Arizona University campus. Infrastructure needs include space for developing applied research projects, as well as the technology and infrastructure needed to disseminate environmental knowledge to the region and the nation.
Given these needs, the administration at Northern Arizona University developed a plan to design and build a unique building that would meet the expanding research needs of the Center for Sustainable Environments and its public and private partners.
In order to showcase the environmental sensitivity of the Center and its partners, the Applied Research Building was intended as a “high performance building” Sometimes called Green Buildings, High Performance Buildings use state of the art technologies and processes to reduce energy and water consumption, increase indoor air quality, and minimize resource consumption.
The brief arose from the Arizona Board of Regents establishment of the interdisciplinary Center for Sustainable Environments (CSE) at Northern Arizona University. The Center serves as a catalyst for many on and off campus projects, and has a direct and immediate impact on both the community and regional economy.
The CSE’s rapid expansion created a need for additional research space on the Northern Arizona University campus, and more space to develop applied research projects, and disseminate environmental knowledge to the region and the nation. The brief called for a ‘unique’ environmental exemplar building that would meet the expanding research needs of the Center, and its public and private partners. The project’s funding was constrained by the need to raise match-funding from private donors and foundations to support ’Prop 31’ state funding.
Hopkins Architects’ detailed design of the ARD Building was based on environmental performance targets generated by an on-campus charette led by a leading American ‘green’ designer, Bob Berkebile. The charette demanded the most energy and water efficient building in the Arizona education system, a ‘living machine’ teaching tool with zero pollution from its labs, and pervasive recycling and composting; a building that exceeds ASHREA air quality standards, with continuous monitoring of all building energy and mass flows; and with office and break-out spaces designed to encourage human interaction in predominantly daylit internal conditions.
Commissioned in October 2003, Hopkins led the design process until construction began on site in Autumn 2005, with completion in Spring 2007 and opened in September 2008. Burns-Wald Hopkins were architect of record and contract administrators.
The three-story, 60,000 sq ft building cost $25 million to design and build. It houses offices for several university and governmental agencies focused on the environment, including the National Park Services, US Geological Survey and the Centre for Sustainable Environments. The top floor is used by the Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics and the Keim Lab, research facilities focused on disease-causing bacteria. The long and shallow floorplate maximizes natural daylighting and views out from both the open plan and closed offices. The circulation overlooks the atrium space which encourages interaction.
The exposed concrete structural frame of the building, stores heat in the winter and cools in the summer, which is vital to the building’s low-impact environmental performance. Key local materials used on the façades included Navajo sandstone and Ponderosa pine were sourced locally while reducing carbon emissions on transporting materials, to create a contextual and robust response to the local climate and culture.
In conferring its 2008 Honor Award, the American Institute of Architects Southern Arizona Chapter said: “Complex and sophisticated, this university building takes very seriously a wide range of sustainability issues and employs them to generate a beautifully integrated design. The sun is used as a real driver of the building’s form with massing, skin treatment, fenestration and sun shading all handled with great skill and precision.” The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction added: “This building convincingly combines the pragmatics of providing shelter with the material poetics of place making.”
Northern Arizona University’s Applied Research and Development Building has been awarded Platinum Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, the highest rating for sustainability under the LEED® program. The ARD, as the building is known, is only the second building in Arizona to receive the top rating. The three-story, 60,000-square-foot building scored 60 out of 62 available points, making it one of the highest scoring Platinum projects awarded to date.
The ARD building responds to the particular setting and local climate in Flagstaff, which lies near the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, along the western side of the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in the continental United States. At 7,000 ft above sea level, the local climate is very particular with mild weather conditions throughout most of the year, very strong sunlight in summer, clear air all year round but temperatures often fall precipitously after sunset throughout the year, and winter nights are very cold. The region is susceptible to flash flooding so we organized the building in a south-facing arc set out around a newly formed storm water ‘detention’ basin, which greatly reduces flood levels in the neighborhood. The geometry and orientation also maximise daylight penetration into the interior, helps capture the winter sun and reducing electric lighting demand throughout the year.
Behind the louvered three-storey glass façade, there is a full height atrium that serves as a thermal buffer space for the offices behind. Louvers and blinds shade the gallery from the hot summer sun, yet allow sun penetration to warm the building in the winter. The south face of the building is expressed in brick, wood, glass and aluminum. The building embodies simple yet profound environmental principles: its form and fabric acts as the primary passive environmental modifier, with active engineering systems only introduced to recycle ambient energy.
Sustainable strategies integrated into the building include:
⋅ a long and thin shape to maximize daylight and minimize electric lighting needs
⋅ concrete structural frame stores heat in the winter and cool in the summer to reduce energy required for heating and air-conditioning
⋅ low-pressure under-floor air distribution reduces fan sizes and energy requirements
⋅ nearby field of photovoltaic panels (donated by APS) produces 160 kilowatts and produces more than 20 % of the building’s electricity
⋅ triple-glazed windows on the building’s north side minimize unwanted energy loss and gain
⋅ automated shade controls regulate solar gain to maintain a comfortable gallery environment
⋅ any heating required comes off a district heating system
The combined impact of all these strategies is to reduce the energy consumption by 89% compared to a typical ASHRAE compliant building.
Other strategies leading to the Platinum rating include:
⋅ reclaimed water is used to flush toilets and irrigate the landscape
⋅ one-third of the building is built of recycled materials – carpet, insulation, steel and aluminum
⋅ 92 % of construction waste was diverted from the landfill
⋅ pervious concrete is used in the parking lot to allow storm water to drain through the paving, recharging the aquifer
⋅ a green roof mediates the building’s absorption of heat and cold, while promoting biodiversity
All public areas of the building, including the south-facing patio, are fully accessible and lifts at either end of the building allow for efficient and obvious circulation for wheel chair users. The simple and clear layout is visually uncluttered allowing views into most areas.
The building had to meet high performance factors, which included 24 hour utilization, direct connection to the outdoors throughout the building, the use of daylighting as the primary source of light in all major spaces and optimizing human interaction through open spaces and common areas.
To ensure that the building is used to its full potential throughout its whole life, a central aim of ARD is to make its layout flexible enough so that different Lab and non-lab departments can grow and change without major impact on the fabric of the building. The site is between two of the most important green spaces adjacent to the Campus - the Ponderosa Pine Woodland surrounding the Riordan Mansion and the cemetery to the south. The aim was to enhance the ARD site by creating a new ecological setting, which links these woodlands, and allows an indigenous landscape to develop and also provides a sheltered microclimate for the ARD building to be placed. To minimise the extent of re-grading the north part of the existing parking lot and site entry has been kept intact. This also allowed continuous access to the buildings to the North to site during construction.
The main block houses the ARD departments, main horizontal circulation and cores. A raised floor is laid throughout, except in Keim Lab, and together with demountable partitions allows flexibility of use. The main entry to the building is via a concrete ramp located to the north east of the building. The east core extends beyond the entrance and with the gallery projecting over creates a sheltered location for entry. A high quality stainless steel and glazed revolving door is situated at the top of the ramp. This offers further protection during the transition from outside to inside while ensuring minimal heat loss from the building.
The first floor contains key departments and main ARD support facilities - reception area and building management suite, GIS plotter and mail room. Full height glazed screens to the front of each department provide an acoustic barrier while still maintaining visual contact and allowing daylight to filter naturally into the departments. The second floor repeats the first floor layout and houses the Business Incubator as well as the rest of the smaller departments and the shared laboratory. The circulation runs along the east side of the departments and is open to the atria. The top floor is devoted to the Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics and the Keim Lab, research facilities focused on disease-causing bacteria such as anthrax and plague.
Plans - Sections - Elevations
Client: Northern Arizona University
Program: Completed 2007
2004 Holcim Awards Acknowledgement 2005
2007 Structural Engineers of Arizona - Award for Excellence in
2007 LEED Platinum Award
2008 Institute of Sustainable Laboratories “Go Beyond” Award