Sustainability in the Desert: The Biomedical Sciences Partnership Building

Biomedical Sciences Partnership Building in Phoenix, Arizona

Biomedical Sciences Partnership Building in Phoenix, Arizona

By: Chris Kaiser

The newly completed Biomedical Sciences Partnership Building on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus advances the desert vernacular of its predecessor and neighbor, the CO-designed Health Science Education Building (HSEB). Inspired by the surrounding natural canyons, BSPB rises 10 floors above the desert floor clad in an undulating, self-shading copper facade. The facade utilizes nearly 4,800 formed and bent copper panels, predominantly sourced from recycled material, to both reflect light and cast shade onto the surrounding canyon walls. As a sun screen, the copper naturally mitigates the extreme temperature difference between the interior and exterior in the hot desert climate. While the copper facade is the most visible sustainable measure, this LEED Silver-certified building features a multitude of innovative sustainable technologies and designs.

Massing diagram

Massing diagram

Inspired by Arizona’s vast landscapes and canyons, the mass of the building was conceived with the notion of controlling light and heat gain with respect to programmatic functionality. The East and West facades of the building are primarily solid in order to minimize heat gain in the hot Arizona climate. The shifting massing of the south façade creates self-shading, horizontal external sunshades that further protect the interior from heat gain and glare while still allowing for ample daylighting.


Courtyard between HSEB and BSPB.

Both the five-story canopy and the canyon-like courtyard between the HSEB and BSPB provide comfortable outdoor microclimates that are as much as 20 degrees cooler than ambient air temperature. Shaded for much of the day, researchers, doctors, and students from both buildings can relax and socialize in these cooler areas.

Detail of copper facade

Detail of copper facade.

In an effort to prioritize regional and recycled material, copper contributed not only to the unique building appearance, but also reduced construction impact. Of the 295,000 pounds of copper used to make the exterior panels, 95-99% were made from recycled material. Between the exterior envelope and the mechanical systems used to condition the building, energy costs were reduced by 16% compared to ASHRE 90.1.2007, Appendix G. During construction, scrap materials were separated into recycling bins, diverting more than 75% of construction waste from landfill.   

Precast steel drain

Precast steel drain.

Water is a critical element in the formation of the surrounding forms and landscapes, and so is carefully considered and celebrated in the  building and landscape design. The landscape design features water-efficient plants appropriate to the climate, supplemented by weather-sensor-controlled irrigation. Inside the building, high-efficiency fixtures boost water savings. In the event of a rare rainstorm, water is celebrated and made into features. The eroded concrete mass reveals steel-shrouded windows and roof drains, which expose stormwater as it runs down the steel, continues through the sidewalk, and finally spills out into a bioswale that creates a buffer to adjacent parking. BSPB and HSEB are connected by an outdoor terrace on the 3rd floor, where water is collected during a storm and drains into an oculus with a steel catchment basin in the landscape below.

Sun reflections on the copper facade.

Sun reflections on the copper facade.

BSPB showcases CO Architects’ values: the importance of design that is rooted in location, taking cues from local surroundings, and composing the goals and technical aspects of the project into a meaningful and sustainable design.

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