Completion Date: August 2015


Environment and Natural Resources Building(ENR2), Tucson, Arizona, United States


The vision for the Environmental and Natural Sciences complex (ENR2) is to become the centerpiece of a University-wide initiative to push the boundaries of sustainable design. As such, it also demanded an iconic identity with a truly integrated holistic solution to sustainability to serve as a living and learning laboratory.

A series of passive cooling design strategies were used, such as interior shaded courtyards, water conservation, native landscaping, thermal massing, overhanging balconies, etc. The goal for the building is to demonstrate that sustainable design can promote occupant comfort, health, and productivity while reducing its environmental impact.

ENR2 establishes a sense of place and identity. Its undulating concrete walls recall the desert canyon and echo our sense of space in the Southwest. This was created by borrowing from the iconic imagery of our region, striking landforms of canyon and mesa, the dramatic play of light and shadow. The building reflects these natural experiences, tying the building to the powerful and evocative sequence of the desert canyon.


UA’s master plan identified the need for ten Environmental and Natural Science Schools and Research Laboratories scattered across the campus to be housed in a single building. Amalgamating all the schools and their technical needs into a centralized space created a unique design challenge.

Through extensive interviews with the users, a planning strategy was identified to capture the UA’s mission for interdisciplinary collaboration. Additionally, the building needed to address spaces that enhance academic communities, educational outreach, fundraising activities, and private partnerships. Key drivers included creating a framework for the future, providing flexible open plan with shared spaces, interaction hubs, and placing state-of-the-art teaching, and research labs on display.


The elemental nature of materials used in the project was a conscious decision to strengthen the building’s connection to nature and the environment. The building’s structure is left largely exposed reducing the need for additional finish materials. Materials used require little to no maintenance over time, greatly reducing the need for additional energy and material due to maintenance.

Elevated planters consisting of native vegetation are irrigated with 100% non-potable water consisting of rain water, as well as condensate water collected from building cooling systems. Water flows vertically through the building from one planter level down to the next through open scuppers celebrating the process of gathering water and its presence within the canyon. This water is collected into a 55,000 gallon storage tank below ground, filtered and recirculated throughout the building.


One of the main project goals was to provide opportunities for collaboration and sharing of ideas.. Therefore, laboratories and communal spaces are organized about the courtyard, a café opens to the ground level court, serving as catalyst for social interaction. The high occupancy meeting and auditorium spaces are located on the ground floor to provide easy access and ground plane animation, while smaller outdoor gathering spaces are located throughout the upper floors. Primary building circulation occurs through external circulation rings around the central canyon courtyard encouraging casual interaction amongst the different departments.

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