// arthitectural / Architecture / Marlene Imirzian & Associates | Paradise Valley Community College – Life Science Building

Marlene Imirzian & Associates | Paradise Valley Community College – Life Science Building

Architecture Marlene Imirzian & Associates | Paradise Valley Community College – Life Science Building

Phoenix, Arizona has a burgeoning Biotechnology industry and in order to help fill the demand for skilled employees the Paradise Valley Community College plans to double its Biotechnology Program. The new Life Science Building provides new instructional space, housing the college’s Anatomy, Physiology, General Biology, Biotechnology, Microbiology, Marine Biology and Environmental Biology Programs.

The PVCC Life Science Building is a fusion of unique educational laboratory and specific environmental response, a manifest symbol of a commitment to collaborative learning, creating an interactive forum for both the formal and informal exchange of ideas within the context of sustainable and responsive desert architecture.

Throughout the development of the new Life Sciences Building, three major conceptual ideas led the design team:

Weave the Campus Fabric:
Create a major campus amenity and help foster campus-wide interaction by interlacing classrooms, a major campus walk, informal gathering spaces and a campus green under one roof. Facing the future campus green, this Big Porch creates an amenity for the entire college community and establishes a truly three-dimensional public space. The large, east- facing porch shades a gently sloping bridge,  an extension of primary campus circulation, which connects the existing campus to the remote Athletic Fields and to the location of future campus expansion.  This simple thread weaves the Life Sciences building and these peripheral facilities into the fabric of the campus.

Promote Collaboration:
Develop a catalyst for innovation through collaboration. The series of eight exterior collaboration pods located under the Big Porch roof provide welcoming, informal gathering spaces. The various sized pods incorporate power, data, lights, marker boards, fans and furniture to create highly functional spaces that overlook a future campus green. Each collaboration pod is a different size and proportion and features a bridged connection back to the building. By presenting the pods along the main façade, the Life Sciences Building proudly presents its dedication to interaction and collaboration as a primary value of the sciences.

Celebrate the Sonoran Desert:
Respond to the context of the site.  It is of great necessity that the new Life Sciences building respond to the extreme temperatures and intense heat of the desert sun.  The large “porch” roof shades the glazing and exterior spaces below reducing the temperature and making the exterior spaces usable for most of the year.  The design team also sought to express the beauty and diversity of the Sonoran Desert. A learning Sonoran Desert xeriscape supports the Life Science program. Furthermore,  water is scarce. That is why it was important during the design process to celebrate the seasonal monsoons that provide a majority of the desert’s water for the year. The canted roof and rainwater collection system’s design honors these infrequent storms. Playful, oversized downspouts activate when it rains. The carefully designed slots along the downspout act as a measuring device, indicating the duration and intensity of the ensuing rains.  Water then runs down the exterior of the downspout where it lands above underground cisterns. The rainwater slowly percolates into the ground water, which helps enrich nearby soil rather than diverting it to the city sewer.

Sustainbility Features:
The building reduces imported fill requirement by being placed on the existing grade, 5’ below the rest of campus. Typically fill dirt would have been brought in to set the site level with campus, which is both expensive and wasteful of resources. Instead, a pedestrian bridge reconciles the grade change, and minimizes the need for new fill on site.

The exterior circulation, stairs and collaboration space require no conditioning, reducing energy consumption. These elements take advantage of the eight months of good weather in the Sonoran Desert.

The major exterior materials, masonry and copper, have no finish or coatings and have need of little future maintenance.

The locally sourced copper (a major Arizona export) kept environmental and economic impact of material imports low. Interior primary flooring is finished concrete and exposed masonry.

The large canted roof shades major glazing along the facade. The roof is designed to keep direct sunlight out of the occupied spaces during the hot summer months.

Daylighting is provided in all occupied spaces, including laboratories , laboratory preparation, and classroom spaces, less energy is required for lighting.

The building orientation reduces heat gain during the summer.

The white roof with high albido reduces the heat island effect.

The canted roof directs rainwater into a large underground cistern that retains the water on site to help recharge the ground water, and enrich the soil for the surrounding landscape.

Digital control systems ensure automated operation of laboratory and building systems, optimizing system efficiency.

Landscaping around the building create cool microclimates, used as learning and studying areas. The plants further help soil stability on site, control surface runoff, and provide a buffer between sunlight and building.


Location: Paradise Valley Community College, Phoenix Arizona, USA
Architect: Marlene Imirzian & Associates Llc, Architects
Construction Manager at Risk: Barton Malow
Lab Consultant: Design for Science
Structural: Paragon Structural Design
MEP: ESD – Energy Systems Design
Landscape: The Moore/Swick Partnership
Civil: Kland Huval Engineers
Audio Visual: Convergent Technologies
Cost: Rider Levett Bucknall
Client: Maricopa Community College District
Software: Construction Documents | Autodesk Revit
Project Area: 35,403 sqft
Project Year: 2009
Photographer: Bill Timmerman | Timmerman Photography Inc.

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