Newly Eco-Friendly Visitor Center Holds Open House

Nov. 1, 2007

At The University of Arizona, red and blue make green.

The UA Visitor Center is a prominent example of how the University community is contributing to the green revolution, and center staff showcased the building’s eco-friendly features yesterday at an open house celebration.

As part of Campus Sustainability Week, members from the Tucson and UA communities were invited to tour the newly revamped building, which now features 36 solar panels, two 2,000-gallon cisterns and native vegetation.

UA President Robert N. Shelton joined staff, students, faculty members and residents of the West University neighborhood to celebrate the culmination of a project that was years in the making.

"This is an example of how we’re using technology to secure the future and connect with the past," Shelton said of the Visitor Center project. The center’s new sustainable features demonstrate the UA’s longstanding commitment to the environment and help the University take the lead in the "greening of America," he said.

The center, at the corner of Euclid Avenue and University Boulevard, has become an example of how the UA and the Tucson community can come together to promote sustainability, said Jaime Gutierrez, associate vice president for community relations.

"This is a truly grassroots effort," Gutierrez said. "People bought into this project and they didn’t need much pushing."

The project involved participation from several UA and Tucson groups and volunteers, including UA Facilities Management, students from the ECOalition student group, UA Campus and Facilities Planning, the Libby Davison from the Campus Arboretum, professor Jim Riley from the department of soil water and environmental sciences, the UA Water Resources Research Center, the Office of Community Relations, Kevin Koch from Technicians for Sustainability, Betsy Bolding from Tucson Electric Power and residents of the West University Neighborhood.

Praising Tucson Electric Power for its hand in the project, Joseph Simmons, head of the materials science and engineering department and member of the Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy, said he was happy about the work the company had done.

"TEP is pushing solar further into their plan for the future," he said. The company helped pay for the Visitor Center’s solar panels, which provide the center with about one-third of its power.

Simmons and the Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy are active in sustainability projects across campus. The institute is one of many ways the UA is working to stay environmentally conscious.

The University currently offers over 160 courses that deal with environmental sustainability; there are 19 UA Centers of Excellence doing research in sustainability; and several UA researchers belong to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which recently shared the Nobel Prize with former Vice President Al Gore.