Sustainability in the Desert: Video Case Study Offers CE Credit for Architects

May 22, 2013


Copper Development Association and GreenCE team up to showcase integrated design approach and copper-cladding system of new Arizona Health Sciences Education Building

NEW YORK, NY— Inspired by its surrounding southwestern landscape, the Health Sciences Education Building (HSEB) at The University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix is one of the most innovative construction projects in the United States utilizing predominately recycled copper. Using nearly 6,000 copper panels and more than 10,000 copper parts, this 268,000 square-foot building consists of six stories of administration and faculty offices, lecture halls, learning studios, flexible classrooms, clinical suites, gross anatomy facilities, laboratories and conference rooms.

The Copper Development Association (CDA), in conjunction with GreenCE, has developed a two-part video case study which further highlights the building materials and craftsmanship of the HSEB project, and the design philosophy and strategy behind the sustainable design and construction of this state-of-the-art facility. Both hour-long videos are registered with the USGBC for continuing education credits and with the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which requires architects to pursue continuing education to maintain their accreditation.

Part one of the case study articulates how the selection and development of a building's site can support the health of the surrounding community and identifies the positive outcomes of using the Integrated Design Process encouraged by LEED Certification. Architects can register for the free online course on the GreenCE website. Part two is also available on the GreenCE website.

"The HSEB wall-cladding system is a custom system that is atypical from industry standard installations and was fully engineered for this extreme desert environment," said Wayne Seale, Project Manager and Architectural Applications Specialist at CDA. "Architects can use this course to not only fulfill their annual CE requirements as architects, but as LEED professionals as well. It allows them to see copper as a real, living material that changes over time and supports the aesthetic and functional intent of their buildings."

Known for its durability, malleability and high ductility, copper can be formed and stretched into complex and intricate surfaces without breaking. The copper cladding for the HSEB is made up of 99 percent recycled material from U.S. copper mills. With a recycling rate higher than that of any other engineering metal, the copper used in the HSEB panels most likely served as a computer part, plumbing fixture, or wiring system several years ago.

Using 26 different copper panels arranged in multiple combinations, the designers were able to create an abstract pattern that represented the surrounding desert landscape, bringing the project's vision to life. "If you look, a lot of the views around here are of the mountains that surround Phoenix. We wanted the color and the striations [of the building] to relate to those mountains," Paul Zajen, Design Principal for CO Architects, states in the video. "We realized we could get that with copper."

In addition to its aesthetic appeal, the extensive copper-cladding provides the HSEB with a skin most suitable for the desert climate. With Phoenix temperatures reaching as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit, copper is an attractive alternative to steel due to its ability to quickly reject heat. Its copper-clad exterior literally serves as a shield protecting the building interior from direct solar exposure. Adapting rainscreen technology, the building's engineers took a system typically used in the northwest and created a way to use copper cladding as a sunscreen to keep excessive heat out of the HSEB. Completed in August 2012, the HSEB project is targeting LEED Silver certification for new construction.

Students at the University of Arizona and Northern University Arizona will be using the Health Sciences Education Building for various programs. The new facility will serve as a training ground for 1,200 medical professionals each year.

For more information about the properties and applications of copper, visit