The Top 15 Eco-Friendly Sustainable Buildings in Arizona

A collage of photographs showing the Top 15 Eco-Friendly Sustainable Buildings in Arizona. Across the bottom of the image are the words "The Top 15 Eco-Friendly Sustainable Buildings in Arizona." In the center is a green outline map of Arizona.

Images courtesy of RSP Architects, American City Business Journals, Arup, and Archello.

Eco-friendly construction is the future of architecture, partly because it helps reduce the contribution of the construction industry to climate change. This matters because construction is responsible for 40 percent of total annual global carbon dioxide emissions.

Arizona has been at the forefront of eco-friendly construction to conserve natural resources and combat climate change, which explains why the state has so many sustainable buildings.

Sustainable construction incorporates principles like pollution reduction and conservation of natural resources. Practices and techniques that are used in sustainable building include energy and water efficiency, low carbon footprints, waste management, and sustainable site development.

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the top 15 eco-friendly sustainable buildings in Arizona. From energy-efficient skyscrapers to institutional buildings with green roofs, I’ll explain how each structure meets the criteria for green building.

1. International Pavilion

A photograph of the International Pavilion.
A photograph of International Pavilion. Image courtesy of RSP Architects.

Owned by Northern Arizona University, the International Pavilion is one of the top eco-friendly sustainable buildings in Arizona.

The 10,000-square-foot (929-square-meter) house is among the most eco-friendly structures in the world, thanks to its many green building features.

The building’s design uses the Southwest winds blowing across the campus for natural ventilation. It has vents that facilitate airflow to reduce its demand for cooling, conserving energy.

The LEED-NC Platinum-certified building has many features that enhance water and energy efficiency, which include:

  • Natural cooling: It has ceiling and side wall louvers that open automatically when the rooftop temperature reaches 75°F (24°C) or higher. This enhances air currents to cool the building.
  • In-floor radiant heating: The system circulates water at different temperatures to various parts of the building for heating. The water is heated by an efficient gas-powered boiler for energy conservation.
  • Minimal waste generation: During construction, the project diverted most of its waste from landfills by recycling residual materials.
  • A stormwater filtration system: The system captures rainwater and filters it, making it suitable for use in irrigation. The move lowers the building’s demand for municipal water.

2. REI Distribution Center

A photograph of the REI Distribution Center.
A photograph of the REI Distribution Center. Image courtesy of American City Business Journals.

Located in Goodyear, Arizona, REI Distribution Center is a model of eco-friendly construction.

The LEED Platinum-certified building is owned by the REI National Outdoor Co-operation. The co-operation promotes sustainability as one of its values.

The center is net-zero energy, meaning it generates more on-site energy than it consumes. It also reduces its carbon footprint by making use of renewable energy.

The 400,000-square-foot (37,160-square-meter) facility boasts the following sustainability features:

  • Rooftop solar panels: The center has 280,000 square feet (26,000 square meters) of solar panels on its roofs. This system generates 2.2 megawatts of electricity to power the center’s operations, reducing its reliance on the national grid.
  • Natural air conditioning: The building is designed to stir the indoor air naturally to reduce the temperature differential between the ceiling and the floor. It also has powerful energy-efficient fans that vent warm indoor air.
  • Hyperchairs: It has climate-controlled chairs for efficient temperature control.
  • Eco-friendly material handling: The management hired eco-friendly material handlers for energy-sipping installations. The installations incorporated 24-volt motor-driven conveyors that shut down when empty.
  • Energy efficiency: The building has LED lighting fixtures controlled by smart sensors for energy conservation.
  • Water conservation and restoration: The building’s non-evaporative cooling system keeps the employees cool throughout the year while conserving water. Moreover, the center abstracts water from the nearby Verde River, reducing its demand for municipal water.
  • Waste management: The building has a recycling system that recycles about 97% of its waste to conserve landfill void space and keep materials cycling in the circular economy.

3. Applied Research & Development Facility

A photograph of the Applied Research & Development Facility.
A photograph of the Applied Research & Development Facility. Image courtesy of Arup.

The Applied Research & Development facility is another eco-friendly building owned by Northern Arizona University.

The 59,821-square-foot (5,558-square-meter) building showcases the latest energy-efficient design in the construction industry. It also illustrates the efficiency of renewable energy in reducing a structure’s carbon footprint.

It’s LEED Gold-certified and was the greenest building in Arizona at the time of its completion.

The main features making this facility sustainable include:

  • Renewable energy: It has a 160-kilowatt photovoltaic solar power system that generates about 20 percent of its electricity.
  • Energy conservation: It has venting windows, automatic shade controls, and an enthalpy wheel for indoor temperature regulation. These features minimize its reliance on the HVAC system for cooling. Also, it has large glass windows that maximize daylighting, reducing its dependence on artificial lighting.
  • Waste recycling: Over 90% of its construction waste was diverted from landfill through recycling. Moreover, about 30 percent of its materials contain recycled content.
  • Sustainable material sourcing: The wood used for construction came from Arizona’s certified renewable forests.
  • Water efficiency: The facility incorporates indigenous landscaping, lowering the need for irrigation. Moreover, it has waterless urinals, low-pressure faucets, and low-volume toilets that reduce its water consumption by 60%.

4. ASU Biodesign Institute, Phase II

A photograph of the ASU Biodesign Institute, Phase II.
A photograph of the ASU Biodesign Institute, Phase II. Image courtesy of Archello.

Located along 1001 S. McAllister Avenue, ASU Biodesign Institute, Phase II is one of the top eco-friendly sustainable buildings in Arizona due to its energy and water conservation initiatives.

The project was LEED Gold-certified due to its commitment to conserving energy, reducing the heat island effect, and using recycled materials.

The building reduced its water use by 30 percent through indigenous landscaping and water-efficient appliances. It also has low-flow plumbing fixtures that minimize water wastage.

Most of the materials used in the institute’s construction contained recycled content to conserve natural resources. It also went the extra mile to reduce its carbon footprint by sourcing construction materials locally.

The project has a 150 kW solar photovoltaic roof system that supplies 10 percent of its electricity needs. Solar energy reduces the project’s demand for mains electricity, enhancing its carbon footprint reduction initiatives.

Finally, the building is free of VOCs, maximizing indoor air quality for a healthy environment.

5. Navy Operational Support Center

A photograph of the Navy Operational Support Center.
A photograph of the Navy Operational Support Center. Image courtesy of The Sentinel.

The Navy Operational Support Center building is owned by St. Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

The 32,055-square-foot (2,978-square-meter), one-story building is LEED Platinum-certified due to its numerous sustainable construction initiatives.

The center has a 67kW photovoltaic solar array for on-site renewable energy generation. This solar system generates electricity for powering some of the center’s activities, reducing its demand for mains power.

Additionally, it has a demand-control ventilation system, which is one of its energy conservation initiatives. The system initiates ventilation only when necessary. In most cases, it does this based on occupancy.

The building also features a high-efficiency chiller that saves more energy by lowering the demand for central cooling.

Finally, it has rooftop skylights and large glass windows for maximum daylighting. These features promote natural light penetration during the day, reducing the need for artificial lighting.

6. Sixth Street Residence Halls

A photograph of the Sixth Street Residence Halls.
A photograph of the Sixth Street Residence Halls. Image courtesy of MARTIN, WHITE & GRIFFIS STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS.

Owned by the University of Arizona, Sixth Street Residence Halls are among the state’s most eco-friendly buildings.

These LEED Platinum-certified halls are a testament to the university’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

The building achieved all its energy-saving goals through its double solar system. Its desert location makes rooftop solar-thermal systems a very efficient means of energy generation.

Moreover, the halls have large operable windows for maximum influx of natural light. These windows reduce the need for artificial lighting during the day.

The halls have smart lighting control to save more energy. These smart-systems turn the lights on or off, depending on a room’s occupancy. They also dim the lights’ intensity based on how much natural light enters the rooms.

Other features that make Sixth Street Residence Halls sustainable include:

  • Native landscaping: The halls incorporate native landscaping initiatives through native plants like cactus. This reduces the need for irrigation, conserving more water.
  • Recycled and renewable materials: The halls were built with recycled and renewable materials to conserve natural resources while diverting waste from landfills.
  • Stormwater catchment system: An extensive stormwater catchment and storage system harvests enough water for irrigation.
  • Secure bike storage space: It encourages the use of bicycles as an alternative means of transport to reduce carbon emissions from cars.
  • Sustainable site location: The halls’ location closer to public transit services like municipal buses and bus stops encourages the use of public transportation. This helps minimize carbon emissions from personal cars.

7. Sun Devil Stadium

A photograph of the Sun Devil Stadium.
A photograph of the Sun Devil Stadium. Image courtesy of College Gridirons.

Sun Devil Stadium is one of the eco-friendly structures owned by Arizona State University.

The LEED Gold-certified stadium has some of the best sustainable features to reduce its environmental impact.

The 55,000-seat stadium is LEED Gold-certified thanks to its green building initiatives.

The first initiative that makes it sustainable is native, drought-resistant plants for landscaping. These plants are suited to Arizona’s hot climate, reducing the need for constant irrigation and conserving water. Moreover, these plants help to slow down water runoff after rains and hold the soil together to minimize erosion and the amount of suspended solids that get into nearby streams and rivers.

Also, the stadium maximizes natural cooling through air currents. Its buttes have vents that allow air to flow into the stadium for cooling.

The stadium’s contractors diverted over 98% of the construction waste from landfills through recycling. They also used sustainably sourced wood that is Forest Stewardship Council-certified.

By using 25% recycled materials, the stadium played a crucial role in natural resource conservation and pollution reduction.

In terms of carbon footprint reduction, the stadium sourced 14 percent of all materials locally within a 500-mile (800-km) radius.

Finally, the stadium incorporates sustainable site development through safe bicycle parking spaces to encourage cycling. Its proximity to Valley Metro buses, light rail, and circular shuttles also encourages public transportation to reduce carbon emissions from private cars.

8. Hayden Library

A photograph of the Hayden Library.
A photograph of the Hayden Library. Image courtesy of Arizona State University.

Owned by Arizona State University, Hayden Library has some great eco-friendly features.

The library was originally built in 1966 but was not designed with an eco-friendly focus. However, it was later renovated with sustainability in mind, which led to the award of a LEED Platinum certificate.

The renovation incorporated water and energy efficiency features like:

  • Low-flow water fixtures: The library’s toilets were retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures to conserve water. These fixtures resulted in a 37% reduction in water consumption.
  • Eco-conscious landscaping: The library has native plants to reduce the demand for irrigation. Additionally, all irrigation activities are undertaken with water-efficient systems. These systems reduced potable irrigation water usage by 80%.
  • Solar power: The building has a highly reflective rooftop photovoltaic solar power system that covers 13% of its annual energy expenses. It also lowers the urban heat island effect.
  • Smart lighting controls: These controls save energy by turning the lights on or off based on occupancy and natural lighting levels.

9. USAA Phoenix Norterra Campus

A photograph of the USAA Phoenix Norterra Campus.
A photograph of the USAA Phoenix Norterra Campus. Image courtesy of Ricor, Inc.

The United Services Automobile Association (USAA) in Phoenix, Arizona, features some excellent green construction initiatives.

It received LEED v2009 certification for New Construction in 2016 with a scorecard of 63 points.

The building’s natural integration with land provides a sustainable environment with long-term value by creating highly productive working conditions.

The building’s main eco-friendly initiatives include:

  • Renewable energy: It has rooftop solar panels that supply sufficient electricity to cover 13 percent of its operations. This reduces its demand for mains electricity, lowering its carbon footprint.
  • Natural lighting: The building has large glass windows on both sides to maximize daylighting. Since the windows are operable, they can be opened and closed when needed for ventilation.
  • Recycled materials: 20% of the materials used in construction contained recycled content. Using recycled building materials is essential in diverting waste from landfills and conserving natural resources.
  • Sustainable material sourcing: About 20% of construction materials were sourced and manufactured locally, reducing the transportation carbon footprint. Also, the project utilized 50% FSC-certified wood products to conserve forests.
  • Water efficiency: Its low-flow plumbing fixtures are responsible for a 40 percent reduction in baseline indoor water use.

10. Health Services Building

A photograph of the Health Services Building.
A photograph of the Health Services Building. Image courtesy of ArchDaily.

Located along Palm Walk, the Health Services Building is owned by Arizona State University.

The building underwent renovation and expansion in 2012 to make it more eco-friendly. It was renovated sustainably in the following ways:

  • Material reuse: Existing structures like columns and tiles were reused to reduce pollution. Moreover, used concrete was sawn into blocks for reuse in landscaping.
  • Renewable energy: It has rooftop solar panels that supply solar energy to supplement mains electricity, reducing the building’s carbon footprint.
  • Sustainable landscaping: It features native plants and water-efficient irrigation systems that conserve potable irrigation water.
  • Indoor water conservation: The building has water-efficient fixtures and faucets for water conservation.

11. DPR Headquarters in Phoenix

A photograph of the DPR Headquarters in Phoenix.
A photograph of the DPR Headquarters in Phoenix. Image courtesy of SMITHGROUP.

DPR Construction’s headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, is a unique example of sustainable construction in an urban setting.

The building is considered a net zero energy future workplace due to its onsite renewable energy generation initiatives. Its design reduces environmental impact through passive lighting and solar energy.

It has a solar thermal hot water system and a 78.96 kW-DC photovoltaic array over its parking canopies. The system provides shade for parked vehicles while maximizing Solatube skylights.

The solar photovoltaic array system generated an excess of 6,980 kWh after its installation, illustrating high efficiency.

The building’s climate-controlled operable windows save more energy by facilitating natural ventilation. Over 82 Solatubes® maximize daylighting by bringing sufficient natural light into the spaces, lowering the demand for artificial lighting.

What’s more, the building has “Big Ass Fans®” throughout the open office space for sufficient air movement. These fans facilitate indoor cooling.

12. 24th at Camelback II

A photograph of 24th at Camelback II.
A photograph of 24th at Camelback II. Image courtesy of CBRE, Inc.

This is a LEED Platinum-certified building under the Existing Buildings Operations & Maintenance category.

The building is owned and operated by Hines in conjunction with the East Coast Pension Fund.

The 302,209-square-foot (28,076-square-meter) 11-story class-A office building is one of the most eco-friendly sustainable buildings in Arizona for the following reasons:

  • Low carbon emissions: It uses fuel-efficient vehicles, a move that reduced transport carbon emissions by 48.5%.
  • Water efficiency: It has high-efficiency plumbing fixtures that have reduced indoor water use by 35%. This translates to 813,000 gallons (3,077,500 liters) of water saved annually. It has also reduced irrigation water consumption by 60 percent through drip irrigation and native plants.
  • Waste reduction: It diverted 100 percent of its construction waste from landfills through recycling.
  • Renewable energy: 50% of its energy needs are met by off-site renewable energy purchased from third-party suppliers.

13. Alameda Warehouse

A photograph of the Alameda Warehouse.
A photograph of the Alameda Warehouse. Image courtesy of Prologis, Inc.

The Alameda Warehouse in Tempe is a LEED Gold-certified building with a scorecard of 60 points.

The 67,000-square-foot (6,225-square-meter) facility underwent renovations to make it more eco-friendly for LEED Platinum qualification.

The warehouse has a geocellular sustainable stormwater management system for rainwater collection, filtration, and storage. The stored water is used for irrigation, reducing the facility’s demand for municipal water.

Moreover, the renovations incorporated 12 electric vehicle charging points. These points encourage the use of electric vehicles as an alternative means of transportation to curb carbon emissions.

Finally, the building has water-efficient fixtures for water conservation.

14. Beus Center for Law and Society

A photograph of the Beus Center for Law and Society.
A photograph of the Beus Center for Law and Society. Image courtesy of ArchDaily.

This is a 280,000-square-foot (26,010-square-meter) 6-story building designed by Ennead Architects.

The LEED Gold-certified building has a saw-toothed configuration on its exterior facade for excellent thermal performance by facilitating the free flow of air currents.

Also, it has large glass windows for maximum daylighting.

Other sustainability features of the building include:

  • Energy-efficient technologies like underfloor displacement cooling and chilled beams.
  • LED lighting fixtures.
  • Smart lighting control technology.
  • Sustainable landscaping that relies on surface runoff for irrigation. It also has desert-adapted plants.
  • Indoor air quality monitoring systems for a healthier environment.
  • Diverting waste from landfills by recycling 75% of its construction waste.

15. Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 7

A photograph of the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 7.
A photograph of the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 7. Image courtesy of Building Design+Construction.

This is a 281,000-square-foot (26,100-square-meter) building with a low Energy Use Intensity due to its design.

Since the building is in a desert climate, it’s clad in a glass fiber shell reinforced by concrete panels to reduce the rate of energy absorption.

Furthermore, it has an open north side and a closed south side. Therefore, it’s fully illuminated in winter and protected in summer for a conducive indoor environment.

Other sustainable building features include:

  • Chilled beams, ceilings, and sails for energy conservation.
  • Water-saving landscaping initiatives like drip irrigation.
  • A 42-foot (13-meter) elevated entrance that creates areas of shade.

Final Thoughts On Sustainable Buildings in Arizona

Now that you know the top 15 eco-friendly sustainable buildings in Arizona, it’s your turn to take action and make your own home greener.

Green initiatives like using solar energy and low-flow plumbing fixtures will help you conserve natural resources and save money. A win-win situation for the environment and your bank balance.

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