Laboratory as Landmark

Laboratory as Landmark

Arizona State University, Biodesign Institute C

Laboratories and Research

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A visual landmarkanda landmark for sustainability, LEED Platinum® life science research building Biodesign Institute C is defined by a striking outer envelope comprised of thousands of perforated copper panels. It establishes an identity for a major gateway to Arizona State University’s (ASU) Tempe campus and creates a dramatic sense of arrival at what is one of the city’s busiest intersections.

From the outset, ASU intended for this new research building to provide a venue for groundbreaking scientific discovery while also making a powerful visual statement but, most importantly, it had to set a new bar for sustainability and spatial efficiency in life sciences laboratory design.

Needless to say, a high-performance design that would be responsive to climate and surroundings was imperative. With a focus on energy, water, and programmatic efficiencies, as well as user comfort, wellness, and productivity, we created a laboratory building that is also economically efficient in both initial and long-term costs.


Tempe, AZ

Square Feet


Completion date


Project Component

Architecture services

Interior design and space planning


LEED Platinum®

The building’s massing features segmented setbacks to preserve unobstructed views from the James Turrell Skyspace installation.

The dual façade of copper screen and insulated metal panels was not just an aesthetic choice. Featuring eight different levels of perforation, intensive studies of the site’s micro-climate and façade-specific conditions informed their calibration and positioning to minimize solar heat gain, optimize daylighting and visual comfort, and provide unobstructed views out.

As a shading device, the screen reduces the surface temperature of the inner façade by roughly 65 degrees on hot summer days. This in turn reduces the interior temperature, significantly minimizing the cooling load and energy usage.

The angled columns that criss-cross the entry plaza provide a wholly unique lateral bracing system, while creating one of the building’s most defining visual features.

Primed to flex and evolve with ASU’s growing research endeavors and faculty, we met the client’s mandate that the building be a “workhorse” addition to existing research facilities by ensuring it would comfortably house the same number of Principal Investigators as two neighboring laboratory buildings combined, but within 40% less space. Biologists, chemists, engineers, and physicists utilize the building’s mixture of laboratories to discover answers to disease and pioneer new diagnostics. Among them is the nation’s premier team of neuroscience researchers, who are already finding new ways to treat Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The custom-designed, heavily reinforced basement level is home to the ASU research team designing the world’s first compact X-ray free-electron laser (CXFEL), a tool that holds promise for both drug discovery and finding new forms of clean energy.

The researchers in these laboratories required proximity to the same instrumentation, but with cross-contamination a major concern, their laboratories were separated by an airlock partition.

Providing a sense of ownership over their space, researchers were given the opportunity to customize their research neighborhoods by selecting from a menu of workstations and furnishings that would best suit their needs.

The facility is projected to set new standards of energy efficiency for campus laboratory buildings, with a predicted 81% energy use reduction over the Labs21 baseline. Among numerous other energy efficiency solutions, the project team notably worked with the University to enact new standards for reduced air change rates, supporting use of a system where ventilation is decoupled from cooling by using chilled beams in concert with a single pass flow of fresh air.

水管理也是一个先决条件project with an array of water-efficient fixtures leading to a projected 42% water savings beyond the LEEDv2009 baseline. While no wastewater from the facility is reused in the usual ways, it does continue to serve a higher purpose. The wastewater story here is unique in that it is tied to some of the research that the building houses—exploring new ways to treat water for reuse and wastewater monitoring methods that can aid detection of threats to human health, such as disease outbreaks like COVID 19. Wastewater systems were designed in such a way to allow the water researchers to take test samples from within their own building. In fact, the water-efficiency measures not only reduce the building’s environmental impact but are critical for this type of research as the waste needs to be more concentrated for detection.