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Green giant: Biodesign Institute goes platinum

July 31, 2007

ASU’s Biodesign Institute has garnered the highest designation for environmentally friendly design and construction from the U.S. Green Building Council. The platinum certification for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) was issued for Building B, which opened in 2006.

This marks the first time a building in Arizona has received the platinum award.

Building A, which opened in 2004, received gold-level certification. The two buildings were constructed separately but are connected on all levels by glass walkways.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) granted the certificates based on a stringent rating system that recognizes design and construction processes that minimize negative impact on the environment. So far, there are 40 platinum and 257 gold LEED certified buildings in the United States.

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,” says Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC’s president, chief executive officer and founding chair. “Everyone’s comfort, safety and well-being will benefit from the fresh air and natural daylight.”

The Biodesign Institute facilities were designed by architectural team of Gould Evans+Lord, Aeck & Sargent. They were built via a joint venture of Sundt Construction and DPR Construction, and 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.

The 172,000-square-foot Building A was funded by university capital funds and opened in 2004. It earned a gold-level LEED 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 B, measuring 175,000 square feet, was completed in 2006 using funding from a 2003 Arizona legislative appropriation to support infrastructure improvements at the state’s three universities.

Our research attempts to imitate nature’s design,” says George Poste, director of the Biodesign Institute. “So in constructing our facilities, we strove for minimal impact on the natural environment that inspires us.”

The facilities featuring large expanses of glass, and they 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 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 for Gould Evans.

Larry Lord, a science principal with Lord Aeck & Sargent, adds: “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 facilities represent the largest investment in biotech research infrastructure in Arizona, and the investment is paying off. 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 – a waste by-product of coal burning power plants – was used to offset the energy demands of a typical concrete structure.

• A reflective roof membrane and high-albedo paving materials mitigate the Phoenix area’s urban heat island effect.

• A 5,000-gallon irrigation water cistern collects air conditioning condensate water, which eliminates the use of potable water in landscape irrigation. Rainwater from the roof and paving are routed directly via pipes to the drought-resistant, native desert landscaping.

• Low-flow lavatories, kitchen sinks, showers and waterless urinals use 30 percent less water than conventional fixtures.

• An exterior shading system on south and west facades controls unwanted heat from the desert sun.

• 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 automatically control artificial lighting, reducing lighting energy demand and associated cooling loads. These strategies reduce energy use by 29 percent.

• Terrazzo floors were made with locally available materials, including area river rock. This pays tribute to the Salt River that flowed through the site long ago.

• Ozone-friendly refrigerants were used to help mitigate ozone depletion.

• An innovative, variable-volume exhaust system was designed in place of a conventional, constant-volume system, reducing energy demand associated with meeting laboratory ventilation requirements in the desert.

• A two-week flush-out was performed to improve indoor environmental air quality before occupying the building.