New Honors College Hall Nearly Complete

Árbol de la Vida, one of the UA's new residence halls opening later this year, is designed for Honors College students around sustainability and community-building.
May 3, 2011
A perforated copper screen visible from the southwest of the new Árbol de la Vida displays a canyon. Because the building was designed to emphasize student communities using double occupancy rooms and shared bathrooms, it resulted in rectangular buildings with long courtyards, said Melissa Dryden, a senior program coordinator for UA's Planning, Design and Construction. This is "reminiscent of a slot canyon," she said. (Photo by Patrick McArdle/UANews)
A perforated copper screen visible from the southwest of the new Árbol de la Vida displays a canyon. Because the building was designed to emphasize student communities using double occupancy rooms and shared bathrooms, it resulted in rectangular buildings with long courtyards, said Melissa Dryden, a senior program coordinator for UA's Planning, Design and Construction. This is "reminiscent of a slot canyon," she said. (Photo by Patrick McArdle/UANews)
Residential communities on campus have increasingly become hubs that integrate the social and academic lives of students. The UA's new Árbol de la Vida residence hall, which will open this fall for UA Honors College students, carries a sustainable design and includes study rooms, informal gathering lounges and workstations for video classes and conferences. (Photo by Patrick McArdle/UANews)
Residential communities on campus have increasingly become hubs that integrate the social and academic lives of students. The UA's new Árbol de la Vida residence hall, which will open this fall for UA Honors College students, carries a sustainable design and includes study rooms, informal gathering lounges and workstations for video classes and conferences. (Photo by Patrick McArdle/UANews)
Extra Info: 

Árbol de la Vida (Tree of Life) features:

  • A residence hall for UA Honors College students (Yuma Hall will remain an Honors College hall).
  • Space for 719 students.
  • Opening fall 2011; located near Park Student Union and University Boulevard.
  • Part of a five-building grouping of residence halls, all of which are connected by bridges.
  • Students will share double rooms in elongated corridors interspersed with study rooms, informal gathering lounges and community bathrooms.
  • Technology set up in large study room will enable multiple users to access and share digital information and video classes and conferences.
  • Includes Building Dashboard, a custom-designed interactive website displaying the hall's energy and water use.
  • Also features media:scape, an interactive videoconferencing and meeting space. 
  • Also includes roof-mounted solar panels, low-flow water fixtures, smart thermostats and passive water harvesting.
  • Constructed of recycled building materials and materials manufactured within 600 miles of the halls.

Embodied in the very structure of two new University of Arizona residence halls is an important concept – that today's students should live in Earth-conscious, community-oriented environments encouraging them to be critically conscious and both socially and academically engaged. 

Árbol de la Vida, one of two UA residence halls to open this fall, was designed to do just that. 

Meaning "Tree of Life" in Spanish and with sustainable features, recycled building materials and academic meeting spaces, the hall will open to 719 UA Honors College students this fall.

"It is evident to everyone who sees it that it is a very, very thoughtful space," Patricia MacCorquodale, the UA Honors College dean said, adding that sustainability is an important issue for many of the college's students.

The hall will include a range of technology-driven learning tools, including a custom-designed interactive website. 

Also included is a kiosk that will display how much energy and water the hall's residents are using on a daily basis. Other features include solar panels located on the roof to store energy to heat the hall's water, low-flow water fixtures and thermostats that automatically shift temperature when no one is in a room. 

"It's pretty amazing," said Pam Obando, the associate director for communications and outreach for UA Residence Life

Obando said close to 80 percent of the building materials at the site are from materials that are recycled or from up to 600 miles from the University. "I think it will be so interesting to see how the students will be able to interact and engage with sustainability." 

Already, the college has planned a freshman colloquium series with award-winning and distinguished faculty members who will offer the courses to 20 or fewer students at the residence hall.

Faculty fellows and an adviser also will connect with students on site, and the hall also contains two apartments – for a graduate community director and another for visiting scholars and artists to use.

"People put a lot of thought into all of these features, and I think students will appreciate that," MacCorquodale said.  

They do. 

Franchesca Giovannini took an immediate interest in the hall  when she learned it would be built. Having not had a chance to live in the UA's other designated Honors College halls, she could see the benefits of the college's students living in close quarters.

"I didn't get to live in one of the honors dorms last year, and that was something I wanted," said Giovannini, a UA Honors College student and pre-physiology major. 

"Although I still had courses with other honors students, I felt that I would have been interacting with them more, which would have helped me," Giovannini added. 

MacCorquodale, who noted that Yavapai and Posada San Pedro halls would no longer serve as honors halls, said the new hall will lend itself to having "a big and vibrant community."

"It's such a lovely space," she added. "I am excited to see what traditions they will come up with that will set the tone for the place."