2017 - ENR2 Building Projects

During 2016 Fall Semester, students working for the Campus Arboretum began working on a new project: integrating a wide variety of plants located in and around the ENR2 building into the Arboretum’s database. Each new landscape must be inventoried so that the site can be systematically and sustainably managed. 


On September 10, 2015, Environment and Natural Resources Phase 2 (ENR2) building was dedicated on the University of Arizona campus. With its unusual appearance and state-of-the-art energy and water systems, ENR2 is a look into the future of how environmentally friendly buildings can be built.  



Leadership in Creating a Campus Worthy of Emulation.


UA Campus Planning, Design and Construction deserves credit for the design and implementation of this innovative structure that reflects their progressive vision and commitment to sustainability. Modeled on a slot canyon, ENR2 is divided into two halves with a large central, open-air courtyard on the ground floor. Four upper levels break up the canyon “walls” with undulating balconies and overhangs, which provide shade for the areas below. On each level, outdoor spaces, cooled by giant ceiling fans, offer students and faculty shade and connection with nature. Likewise, installation of irrigation and landscape was overseen by UA Facilities Management Grounds Services who understand that no site is sustainable unless the landscape is properly installed and set up to succeed.


Sustainable Features.


The ENR2 building boasts a variety of energy-saving measures to provide for both passive and active temperature control within the building. Openings to the exterior on the eastern and western sides allow cool summer breezes to circulate. Thick, concrete walls, exposed to the elements, keep the interior cool. Metal fins, placed vertically along the internal and external sides of the building, provide shade and dissipate summer heat.


The building also has an advanced mechanical air-conditioning system with active chilled beams which heat and cool the offices and a displacement ventilation system which heats and cools open spaces via under floor low induction air diffusers. Vacancy sensors control lighting and air-conditioning within the offices. In total, the building’s HVAC system is expected to reduce energy consumption by 32%.


ENR2 also boasts a water-harvesting system that captures rainwater and condensate on all five floor and stores it in a 52,000 gallon cistern located on the south side of the building. This water is then filtered and used to water the plants scattered throughout the building. The water-harvesting system captured 115,000 gallons of water in the first year after project completion. This volume of water represents 46% of all irrigation water. The balance of water needed for irrigation utilized reclaimed water.


According to Peter Dourlein, Associate Vice President of UA Campus Planning Design and Construction who intiated and oversaw project construction: rain hitting the roof and balconies at ENR2 is directed through the various landscape areas on each level. Once those are saturated then the water drains down through the balcony to the next level down, saturates that landscape area and then eventually drains down again to water plants in the canyon floor. Surplus drainage on the grade level landscape then collects and drains into a huge collection tank south of the building which will be used for future irrigation.  Rain events activates the building, creating a visceral event with surround sound celebrating rain falling in the desert. To witness the system in action check out the video file taken in 2016 during a rain event. 


Other amenities, such as waterless and dual-flush toilets provide additional water savings. Overall water savings for the building are expected to be 40%. 


The construction of the building allows for more interaction and immersion with nature. Evidence of this success came early in the building’s opening period when a family of humming birds found habitat in the structure. See the story here. Additionally, a variety of energy- and water-saving innovations have earned this 151,000 square-foot building LEED platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.


The Campus Arboretum Highlights Model-Landscapes.


As a foundational aspect of any sustainable structure, the plants in the landscape of the building play a significant role in the appearance, environmental contribution and economic savings of the building. At first glance, it is impossible not to be impressed based on appearance. There are plants everywhere! Golden columbines bloom on the “floor” of the canyon and vines trail down its “walls.” A wide variety of shade-tolerant plants occupy large areas on all five floors. Further inspection reveals much more than meets the eye – throughout the entire structure there are many microclimates including shady spots, wet spots and extremely hot spots with high light. For each location, plants were custom selected in order to optimize growth and health of the landscape with reduced inputs. Particularly noteworthy are the desert-adapted plants around the building’s exterior, on the north, south, and east sides which make a clear statement about the suitability of these species to our climate during times of uncertain water availability. 


Campus Arboretum Student Projects at ENR2 Abound!


In the Fall of 2016, key project leads asked the Campus Arboretum to lend its expertise and resources in showcasing the building’s wide variety of plant life. The project was a marked success for the Arboretum team. In less than 2 semesters, student workers identified and mapped nearly 2,000 shrubs, vines, trees and succulents representing 45 different species installed at the building. These plants were added to the Campus Arboretum database so that they can now all be explored through our interactive online map. Each of the 45 species represented was researched and a series of botanical photos was taken for each so that visitors to the website can learn more about the plants thus, enriching the capacity of the landscape to provide learning opportunities to campus and community. Next time you’re in ENR2, keep a look out for the black Arboretum signs that can be found dotting the building’s walkways and exterior. The team designed and installed a sign for every species in the building. When scanned, the QR codes found on these signs will lead you to the website species description pages. These species description pages represent the combined effort of the Arboretum’s collective plant expertise, research, and photography. Altogether, over 300 photographs of these plants were taken, each featuring key details that assist viewers in botanical identification of other plants. Culminating these projects at the end of Spring 2017, student workers created a Mobile Tour of the ENR2 landscape. The tour guides visitors through all five floors, highlighting the ways that the unique plant life compliments the slot-canyon inspired architecture.If you have a mobile device, you can enjoy a guided tour of the site by following this link.


We hope you will visit the site often. It is truly an exceptional addition to the Campus Arboretum, reflecting University commitment to creating sustainable and livable urban spaces as models of best practices for dry climates.

March, 2017