ASU Commits $192 Million to Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 7

McCarthy Building Companies recently completed construction of the new $192 million Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building Project 7 (ISTB7) at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe. The new five-story, approximately 281,000 gross square foot high-performance research facility, now known as the Rob and Melani Walton Center for Planetary Health, fosters an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge generation and cutting-edge research aimed at improving life on the planet. Designed and built as a collaborative research facility using clusters where researchers from different disciplines work collaboratively to address global challenges and support innovative efforts to improve the health of the planet and the sustainability of food, water and energy in the future.

Serving as the eastern gateway to campus, the new research center provides opportunities for the public to engage to see how ASU research is changing the world. In addition to public outreach and exhibit space, the Walton Center for Planetary Health is home to the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service, the School of Sustainability, the Institute of Human Origins and a five-story atrium.

Labs, classrooms, and offices are brought together around a building bond, fostering innovation, excellence, and cross-disciplinary collaboration through increased experience and connectivity. ISTB7 contains 70,000 square feet of wet and dry lab space, a conference and education center with a 389-seat presentation hall, academic classrooms, and faculty and staff offices. The dry lab space includes IT, cybersecurity, engineering design and manufacturing, and robotics. ISTB7 also has research laboratories for biological sciences, engineering, life sciences and sustainability.


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“The unique mission of the programs serving this building required a design and construction process with very high standards that reflect the best practices of sustainability in the built environment. The Walton Center for Planetary Health provides another shining example of the continued development of our research district on the Tempe campus,” said Dr. Morgan R. Olsen, ASU Executive Vice President, Treasurer, and Chief Financial Officer. “The project incorporates a myriad of sustainability features and creates a welcoming entrance to the northeast corner of campus and the multi-phase development of the Novus Innovation Corridor.”

The building is located at one of Arizona’s busiest intersections, at the southwest corner of University Drive and Rural Road in Tempe, Arizona. During the pre-construction process, the site was revealed to have a rich archaeological history. To respect and celebrate the site’s unique features, less than 50% of the building’s floor plate touches the ground where more than 1,000 years ago Native Americans processed foods like mesquite pods and agave on site , and later the site was home to the Kirkland-McKinney irrigation canal, a stagecoach road, and the first all-weather transcontinental highway. The canal has been preserved and incorporated into the design of the building and many historic elements have been preserved and are featured in the new structure.

The project team also prioritized reducing the building’s carbon footprint throughout design and construction. Low carbon strategies involved a range of innovative approaches from material selection and interior design to optimizing energy performance and water efficiency solutions. Strategies include using fly ash-based concrete admixtures and positioning the project as the first building in Arizona to use BubbleDeck, a void-form structural deck system that significantly reduces carbon footprint and energy inherent in concrete structures. In addition, special attention was given to the location of the wet labs, the choice of the building envelope and the use of a radiant cooling system. Methods used to save and produce energy and create a comfortable microclimate include the direction of natural air currents, evapotranspiration and photovoltaics. The complex also captures condensation water from the mechanical system and uses non-potable water from the Salt River Project ditch to provide drip irrigation to the landscape, reducing reliance on treated municipal water.

“As the gateway to the Tempe campus and among Arizona’s top performing sustainable labs, ISTB7 represents a legacy project for our team and a partnership with ASU,” said Carlos Diaz, Director of McCarthy Building Companies Southwest Region Education Group project. “Making collaboration a top priority, the ISTB7 team developed and implemented the best solutions on issues ranging from sustainability and historic preservation, to the budget and planning to complete and make this project incredibly complex a reality.”

The overall design of the building is inspired by the desert with the exterior panels based on the biomimicry of a saguaro, which protects itself from the heat with the deep folds of its skin. The ISTB7’s south, east and west-facing windows are shaded by angled exterior wall panels, while the north-facing windows are barely covered – a strategy that also reduces energy consumption of the building while maximizing natural light. The fiberglass reinforced concrete (GFR) panel exterior shell absorbs and stores less heat, while the bright interior courtyard features sparkling glass and cool aqua-colored panels, inspired by the Grand Canyon’s Havasu Falls.

“ISTB7 is the perfect example of how a site can influence built form,” said Rachel Green Rasmussen, AIA, with Architekton. “The unique form, location and long history of site use have shaped the building and influenced the architectural response. Early computer modeling allowed the team to create a porous atrium to guide cool breezes, block warmer winds, and create a ground plane that supports foot and rail traffic on the site.

ISTB7 is the latest among dozens of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) projects on ASU campuses and is by far one of the most ambitious, seeking LEED Platinum status.

Tempe-based Architekton and New York-based Grimshaw Architects served as the architects for the project. Other commercial partners in the project include Sherwood Design Engineers, Dibble Engineering, Buro Happold, TDIndustries, Wilson Electric, Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Thornton Tomasetti, MKB, The Sextan Group/NV5, Colin Gordon Associates; ISEC, Inc., GrEn A/E Consultants, Walters & Wolf, Jensen Hughes and RLB.

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