August 10, 2007
  ASU Biodesign Institute Earns Arizona’s First USGBC Platinum

by Julie Kurth
Communication Manager, Biodesign Institute

How do you . . . build on lessons learned from one sustainable building to make its neighbor perform even better?

Summary: The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, Tempe, has garnered Platinum certification, the highest designation for environmentally friendly design and construction from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Building B, which opened last year, is the first building in Arizona to have earned the Platinum distinction; Building A, which opened in 2004, received a Gold-level certification. The two buildings, which were constructed separately, connect on all levels with glass walkways.

Buildings A and B contribute to a sustainable grand scheme for the campus, as ASU President Michael Crow has called for all new construction at the university to meet LEED standards. “The certifications of both buildings A and B send a message that ASU leadership cares about the health of the buildings’ users and employees. Everyone’s comfort, safety, and well-being will benefit from the fresh air and natural daylight,” said Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC’s president and CEO.

B learns from A
The Biodesign Institute facilities were designed by the architecture team of Gould Evans+Lord, Aeck & Sargent and built via a joint venture of Sundt Construction and DPR Construction. Certification assistance was provided by Green Ideas. In addition to LEED certification, the team’s work won the 2006 Lab of the Year award from R&D Magazine.

At 172,000 square-feet, Building A earned its Gold certificate despite being a fast-track construction project that originally had not targeted certification. Experience from raising Building A was incorporated into Building B, making it possible to earn the platinum-level certificate. The slightly larger building used funding from a 2003 Arizona legislative appropriation to support infrastructure improvements at the state’s three universities.

Inspiration from nature
“Our research attempts to imitate nature’s design. So in constructing our facilities, we strove for minimal impact on the natural environment that inspires us,” says George Poste, director of the Biodesign Institute. Featuring large expanses of glass, the facilities attempt to bring the scientific source of inspiration indoors. All offices have views of a Sonoran Desert garden. A central atrium skylight runs the length of both buildings, allowing natural light to infuse all four levels.

Environmentally friendly features range in scale from site and urban planning to interior finishes. The facility entry is near the new light-rail station set to open in 2008. Overall, the project exceeded LEED criteria for use of recycled materials, at 15 percent, including aluminum ceiling panels, recycled-content carpet, and rubber stairwell flooring. A construction waste management plan reduced landfill construction waste by more than 60 percent.

The facilities foster cross-disciplinary interaction to support the Biodesign Institute’s goals. Its height was limited to four levels to encourage using stairs, rather than elevators. Glass-walled laboratories and office space offer occupants of both buildings transparent views of each other and the atrium that separates them. This design encourages researchers to cross public spaces, which provides ample opportunities for impromptu meetings in the spacious hallways and stairwells. “The idea of the atrium was bold for a university, where space is at a premium,” says Barbara Hendricks, project manager, Gould Evans.

Connections and integrations
Larry Lord, FAIA, LEED AP, science principal with Lord Aeck & Sargent, says: “What we created was the idea of a large connecting space or, as we call it, a three-dimensional collaborative space. So all the floors are associated with an atrium that goes north and south, and then in the future, east and west so that everyone is connected in a bigger sense within the buildings.”

The Biodesign Institute’s master plan includes two additional east-west buildings, which will bring the total space to nearly 800,000 square feet. The institute is the largest generator of federal biomedical research funding in the valley. Its research integrates biology, medicine, engineering, nanotechnology, and advanced computing in new ways to inspire new solutions to disease, injury, sustainability, and security.

Other green elements to the institute include:

  • Fly ash used to offset the embodied energy of a typical concrete structure
  • A reflective roof membrane and high-albedo paving materials that mitigate the Phoenix area’s urban heat island effect
  • A 5,000-gallon irrigation water cistern that collects air-conditioning condensate water, which eliminates the use of potable water in landscape irrigation; rain water from the roof and paving are routed directly via pipes to the drought-resistant native desert landscaping
  • Low-flow toilets, kitchen sinks, and showers and waterless urinals that use 30 percent less water than conventional fixtures
  • An exterior shading system on south and west facades to control unwanted solar heat gain
  • The top portion of the interior shade louver system is automatically controlled to maximize daylight penetration by reflecting diffuse light onto the ceilings
  • Office occupancy sensors that automatically control artificial lighting, reducing energy use by 29 percent
  • Terrazzo floors made with locally available materials, including area river rock to pay tribute to the Salt River that flowed through the site long ago
  • Ozone-friendly refrigerants used to help mitigate ozone depletion
  • An innovative variable-volume exhaust system designed in place of a conventional, constant-volume system to reduce energy demand associated with meeting laboratory ventilation requirements in the desert
  • A two-week flush-out performed to improve indoor environmental air quality before the building was occupied.
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Biodesign Institute Beckons Best and Brightest

The Biodesign Institute at ASU focuses on innovations that improve health care, provide renewable sources of energy and clean our environment, outpace the global threat of infectious disease, and enhance national security. Using a team approach that converges the biosciences with nanoscale engineering and advanced computing, the goal is to find solutions to complex global challenges and accelerate these discoveries to market. The institute also educates future scientists by providing hands-on laboratory research for more than 250 students per semester. For more information, visit  the Biodesign Institute’s Web site.

Photos © Mark Boisclair Photography.