Sustainability has a new state-of-the-art home.
The University of Arizona's Environment & Natural Resources Phase 2 building officially opened its doors Thursday. A variety of community members, from UA leadership to elected officials to students and faculty, attended the festivities.
"Much like the ecosystems in the desert Southwest, the University of Arizona is an ecosystem with many different facets that are interdependent on one another," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. "The work that will take place at the ENR2 building represents the very best of our University."
UA Planning, Design & Construction — along with GLHN Architects & Engineers, Richard+Bauer Architecture and Hensel Phelps Construction Co. — set out to create a building that fused Southwestern U.S. design influences with cutting-edge sustainability initiatives. As many as 2,400 people can flow through the ENR2 building at any time, and ENR2 lead architect Jim Richard wanted to make it memorable for each and every person who enters the man-made slot canyon.
"In a word, our goal was to create a building that was iconic," Richard said. "We wanted this to be the architectural embodiment of maximum environmental sustainability in the Southwest, while also reflecting the natural beauty that can only be found in the desert."
The 151,000-square-foot ENR2 building, with its slot canyon design, nearly 300 artistic inlays and Sonoran Desert-inspired décor, is a physical and symbolic representation of the UA's commitment to promote interdisciplinary research among those who focus on earth science, environmental programs and natural resources.
"Our goal was to create a building that fostered interdisciplinary interaction, with a setup that encouraged people to leave their offices and spend more time in open space, connecting with one another," said May Carr, senior architect for Planning, Design and Construction and ENR2's design manager. "I think we hit a home run."
The building's heating and cooling system, with chilled beams, natural shading and circulating air, is projected to result in a 30 percent reduction in annual energy budget, when compared to a defined baseline system. The east and west ends of ENR2 are open to allow for natural ventilation, which is supplemented by fans on the exterior walkway terraces.
For some, such as Andrew Comrie, the UA's provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, completion of this project represents the culmination of a personal mission that dates back well before any ENR2 blueprints were drawn up. Comrie was a part of a UA task force dating to the mid-1990s that sought to improve campus sustainability.
"We know exciting things are going to happen here, and we're thrilled to see it come to fruition," Comrie said.
Additionally, a five-story water harvesting system will irrigate the building's plants with stored rainwater runoff. The water will irrigate landscape beds containing native trees and plants on various levels of the building, and then flow into the base of the central courtyard. The building contains a 52,000-gallon underground holding and filtration tank to support the water harvesting.
ENR2 houses offices, research space, seminar rooms, a 575-seat high-tech undergraduate auditorium with a permanently incorporated wireless assisted listening system for hearing aids, and a UA Student Unions-operated café, the Slot Canyon Café. ENR2's open-concept floor plan is configured to support interactivity and collaboration, with occupants opting to share space instead of segmented areas.
The ENR2 building is the second part of a four-phase initiative. The first ENR building, which houses the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was completed in 1997.
"This building represents the best of our Never Settle mission for the health of Arizona's future," said Diana Liverman, co-director of the UA Institute of the Environment.