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New ASU downtown Phoenix facility merges law and sustainability

An artist's illustration of what ASU's planned Arizona Center for Law and Society will look like.

An artist’s illustration of what ASU’s planned Arizona Center for Law and Society will look like.

As the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law prepares for its transition to Arizona State University’s downtown Phoenix campus, the university aims to construct a LEED-certified building to house the college that will put energy conservation on the forefront of students’ minds.

“Building sustainably is a moral imperative,” said lead architect Tomas Rossant. “If a student can discover what sustainability means and find it as an imperative while they are studying here, it is a form of education itself.”

Rossant, a design partner with Ennead Architects, said the sustainability of the building is integrated into its design and comes from features that might go unseen by a visitor.

One of the newest technologies being placed in the building is an active chilled beam system, which requires little amounts of energy to heat and cool the building. The chilled beams in the ceiling pull air in from a room where a fan circulates the air around pipes filled with cold water. After the air has cooled, it is then pushed back into the same room from where the air originated. This saves energy by cooling the air inside the room instead of cooling it at a central cooling unit and transporting the air throughout the building like a traditional cooling system would.

“At every design moment we wanted to find all the passive sustainable features of design — the things that don’t require energy in order to save energy,” Rossant said.

The building has an open design to draw in people to educate them about sustainability while encouraging them to use the facility along with students. Rossant hopes the building’s features will encourage more projects in Phoenix to improve energy-conservation efforts.

“Electricity and water are cheap in Phoenix, so there is no built-in incentive for people to try and save energy,” he said.

Making the college a national leader in both law and sustainability is of the utmost importance to Douglas Sylvester, dean of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Moving the school into such a building will allow students to conceptually immerse themselves in the ideas and theories while also being physically immersed in a sustainable facility.

“If you want a program that is the best in sustainability, you need a building that reflects that,” he said.

For the dean, moving the school into the facility fits in with his goal of making the law school increasingly relevant in its soon-to-be new community. “What law schools need to become is far more relevant and important to their communities than they have been in the past,” he said.

The law school is not the first ASU building to aim for a high level of sustainability. Sylvester noted that is a university-wide imperative, so “ASU doesn’t build inefficient buildings.”

Many of ASU’s buildings have merited LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The law school is shooting for a high level of LEED Certification.

The facility will be built on Taylor Street between First and Second streets across from the university’s downtown campus residence hall. Construction is set to begin in July, with the school opening for the fall semester of 2016.

Top 5 sustainability features of new ASU law school:

1. High-performance building enclosure with limited and/or shaded windows.

2. Indoor air delivery via “chilled beams” and low-velocity under-floor cooling.

3. Efficient air-delivery equipment, with energy-recovery systems minimized duct lengths.

4. Use of low-energy LED lighting with daylight sensors to control light levels.

5. Use of outdoor and flexible indoor/outdoor spaces for assembly and circulation, reducing the need for building enclosure and tempering.

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