5 Facts About UA's Greenest Building

Sept. 14, 2015

The vision for what would become Environment & Natural Resources 2 began in the last decade, and now the building stands as an image of the University of Arizona's commitment to sustainability.

With the recent dedication of the building, we take a moment to consider five interesting facts about the building: 

1. A Building for a Green Future

UA students, employees and community members attend the official dedication ceremony on Sept. 10. (Photo: John de Dios/UANews)

When the UA's Student Recreation Center earned LEED platinum certification in 2010 from the U.S. Green Building Council — the highest level in sustainable design and construction — it was the first building on campus, and one of few in Arizona, with a LEED rating.

Today, ENR2 is on track to become the most sustainable building on campus.

The building's sustainability features are many:

  • The central "canyon" integrates exterior circulation and interaction space.
  • The building's fins, made from low-maintenance metal, create shade, driving down the temperature within the canyon. 
  • Massive outdoor fans cool the exterior of several floors.
  • Substantial concrete structure and overhangs both cool the building's thermal mass and provide critical shade.
  • The HVAC system is estimated to result in a 30 percent reduction in annual energy costs.
  • Subfloor ventilation systems in open-office and classroom areas provide air at the floor level, creating more efficient circulation.

Given its building materials, multifunctional elements and durability, ENR2 is anticipated to last at least 100 years.

2. Designed With Human+Human, Human+Nature Connections in Mind

Diana Liverman, co-director of the UA Institute of the Environment, and Angie Brown, projects and event coordinator for the institute, move into the ENR2 building. (Photo: John de Dios/UANews)

The design team was attuned to the concern that humans increasingly are divorced from the natural world.

With that in mind, ENR2 is designed to mimic a slot canyon, with other integrated designs meant to encourage connectivity and interdisciplinarity, particularly related to research and studies related to earth science, environmental programs and natural resources.

Housed within the 150,954-square-foot building are the Institute of the Environment, the School of Geography and Development, the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, and parts of the Department of Mathematics.

Ultimately, the way the building is designed — the way open spaces are employed, the emphasis on shared space and the absence of departmental segmentation — is meant to encourage collaboration.

A rooftop garden is being planned at ENR2 to create a learning laboratory, and photovoltaic rays also are in the works for installation on the roof. The research garden will one day be able to absorb heat, offer insulation, and provide a miniature ecosystem for birds, insects and plants.

3. A Symbolic Slot Canyon

Some of the most beloved slot canyons are located in the Southwest. Consider Zion Narrows, Red Cave and Antelope Canyon — each is an iconic environmental scape.

ENR2 is meant to be the same.

The building's design directly mimics a slot canyon, with its curvilinear shape, its shade elements, and contrasting and shifting lightness and darkness. 

A significant water harvesting system within the building also captures rainwater, which is then redistributed throughout the building's exterior to aid with the native vegetation characteristic of the Sonoran Desert.

4. Not Just About Office Space

In addition to offices, laboratories and research spaces, ENR2 contains seminar rooms, working spaces for graduate students, a 575-seat high-tech undergraduate auditorium and the Slot Canyon Café, which is operated by Arizona Student Unions.

A unique feature of the auditorium is that it is designed with a wider footprint, which allows seating to be situated closer to the front of the room and, thus, the speaker. This provides a more intimate feel for what otherwise would be an expansive space. The room also is equipped with several digital projection screens that provide visibility throughout the room, and a free-span ceiling prevents columns from blocking the view for everyone seated in the room.

ENR2 also is the first building on the campus to have a permanently incorporated assisted listening system for individuals who use hearing aids.

5. Designed and Built by Wildcats

UA alumnae May Carr, senior architect with the Planning, Design & Construction, leads a tour at ENR2. (Photo: John de Dios/UANews)

Several UA graduates were involved in the ENR2 project, including May Carr, senior architect with UA Planning, Design & Construction, and also ENR2's lead architect Steve Kennedy and Phoenix-based architects Jim Richärd and Kelly Bauer — all of whom are with Richärd+Bauer Architecture.

Other alumni who worked on ENR2 include:

  • Mark Lowenthal at Richärd+Bauer
  • Henry Johnstone, Manny Rojo, Maria Ruedinger and Stanley Yellowhair, all of whom are with GLHN Architects & Engineers
  • Mark Turner and Jim Hart of Turner Structural
  • Beth Darnell, Darlene Showalter and Scott Martinez of McGann & Associates
  • Warren Witkowski, an estimator at Compusult Inc.