Sustainable Science Facility Completed at AZ University


According to reports, the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 7 (ISTB7) at Arizona State University recently reached completion after two years of construction.

The 281,000 gross-square-foot structure was built at a cost $192 million and is designed to meet specifications for LEED-NC Gold at minimum. However, officials report that the building is expected to achieve a Platinum-level certification.

Project Details

The university reports that crews first broke ground on ISTB7 in January 2019 on the southwest corner of University Drive and Rural Road in Tempe, Arizona. By the end of 2021, crews were reported to have completed most of the finishing touches at the building, including a pedestrian bridge that connects ISTB7 to the Novus Innovation Corridor and a nearby light rail stop.

For the project, ASU selected Architekton & Grimshaw as the project’s architect and Buro Happold to provide structural engineering, MEP engineering, lighting design, energy modelling consulting, facades and envelope consulting. Other companies that aided in the project’s construction included Research Facilities Design and McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.

Designed to foster an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge generation and leading-edge research, the high-performance research facility plans to provide innovative endeavors focusing on sustainable food, water and energy. In addition to public outreach and exhibit spaces, ISTB7 will also house ASU’s Global Futures Laboratory, the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service, the School of Sustainability and the Institute of Human Origins.

Students and visitors will also find various classrooms, a conference center, a 389-seat presentation hall, various research labs for biological sciences, engineering, life sciences and sustainability, in addition to several dry lab spaces for computing, cyber-security, engineering design and fabrication and robotics.

“The way Grimshaw and Architekton designed it, it’s all about bringing the community into the university and realizing the science that is going on in the space,” said Bryan Kuster, Senior Vice President with construction manager McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. told ENR Southwest.

Additional reports indicate that ISTB7 has also been designed to connect the community to Arizona’s history, the origins of humanity and the future of the planet. To better achieve this connection, the building site includes remnants of a historic canal and other features dating back to early Indigenous people.

“This was an iconic building—the gateway to the university. This was going to be something that was different and not done at ASU before, and it needed to be really special,” Kuster added.

According to reports, the teams evaluated a range of sustainable construction solutions for the project varying from an innovative concrete decking technology to a three-story lift of the building to create shaded gathering spaces. These options were evaluated based on the ability to meet LEED Gold specifications, as the university works to be carbon neutral by 2035.

However, as the project progressed crews were reported to incorporate additional sustainability solutions to put the project on track to achieve LEED Platinum. One of the ways crews worked to achieve this goal was by developing a 40% fly ash concrete sustainable mix and applying it to a patented BubbleDeck system—a void-form structural slab designed to substantially reduce the amount of concrete in the structure.

In total, the project was reported to use 18,000 cubic yards of concrete.

“That’s less mining. That’s less processing. That’s less trucks on the road. That’s less hours the project has to operate to place and pour concrete. So it really does have a big effect to incorporate this rare system that hasn’t been widely used within the United States,” said Carlos Diaz, Project Director with McCarthy.

For the structure’s exterior, crews installed large glass-fiber reinforced concrete panels placed over the building’s prefabricated envelope. Inspired by the self-shading pleats of the Sonoran cactus, the panels serve both as a rain screen and a solar shield, which helps to block solar radiation.

Sensors were also installed on the building’s exterior to track heat transfer through the skin’s system during the building’s life cycle.

In May 2021, the project faced an unexpected challenge when roof insulation materials spontaneously combusted, setting fire to a section of the uncompleted structure. Despite the fire incident and additional COVID-19 disruptions, Kuster told reporters that the project managed to stay on schedule and on budget.


Tagged categories: Building envelope; Colleges and Universities; Completed projects; concrete; Good Technical Practice; LEED; NA; North America; Project Management; Projects - Commercial; Sustainability

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