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Sustainability in the Desert: Copper Gives Unique Look to New Arizona Health Sciences Education Building

By H. Wayne Seale, CDA Project Manager and Architectural Applications Specialist

Two hour-long video case studies about copper use in the Arizona project, produced by the Copper Development Association (CDA) and GreenCE, an online resource for design professionals, are registered with the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA), for continuing education credits. LEED professionals can also earn continuing education credits by viewing the videos. You can register for these free video courses by going to the GreenCE website.

The Health Sciences Education Building at the University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix is made up of 6,000 copper panels and 10,000 copper parts.

I’ve had the privilege of working from the ground up on one of the most innovative construction projects in the United States – the Health Sciences Education Building (HSEB) at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. The 268,000 square-foot building is made up of 6,000 copper panels and 10,000 copper parts and covers six stories.

I was pulled into the project about four years ago when I gave a Copper in Architecture presentation in Los Angeles to CO Architects, the project design architect. After the seminar, they asked me to review their drawings of the new university building that would use copper to enhance the building’s design and structure. The architects were looking to create a complicated copper façade that would look like the striations in the surrounding granite landscape. During construction, each and every copper panel had a number and required a particular place, like pieces of an intricate puzzle. The abstract pattern of the copper panels brought the project’s vision to life in an interpretation of the Arizona desert.

The copper facade was created to look like striations in the Arizona granite landscape.

The copper wall cladding system was specially designed to funnel the rejection of the heat absorbed by the copper. Copper’s durability and its malleability also made it an attractive and appropriate material for the striated façade. Copper was also used because of its high recycled content, which reaches 99% on this project. The recycled content of the HSEB copper contributed to it achieving a Silver LEED certification.

Given that Arizona is the top producer of copper in the U.S., it is especially significant that a large amount of the material was used in this building project. Copper is the reddish tone of the Arizona granite and as it weathers, it will continue to stay brown because the environment is so arid. In hot areas like Phoenix, the weathered copper will not turn green.

We were so impressed with this project, the CDA, in partnership with GreenCE, created a two-part video case study on the project, showing how copper is a sustainable, green material that works well in building construction – on both design and functional levels.

Part one of the case study shows how the selection and development of a building’s site can support the health of the surrounding community and identifies the positive outcomes of using the Integrated Design Process encouraged by LEED Certification.  Architects can register for the free online course on the GreenCE website. Part two describes how the integrated approach affected the design and cost of the HSEB building.

We were pleased to be able to assist in the project and see it come to fruition. And we’re also happy that our case studies have been a popular course. We’ve had up to 350 people a month take our course since last year. I encourage architects and LEED professionals to check out our continuing education opportunity. Also, if you would like more information on copper in architecture and building construction, please contact me, wayne.seale@copperalliance.us.

 

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