NEWS | CAPLA Wins Two AZ Forward Crescordia Awards

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture’s (CAPLA) Underwood Family Sonoran Landscape Laboratory and Downtown Tucson 2050 Plan, a sustainability plan for downtown Tucson drafted by assistant professor Courtney Crosson and her students, won “Crescordia” awards, Arizona Forward’s highest honor at this year’s 2017 Environmental Excellence Awards Gala. Arizona Forward is a 250+ member consortium of large and small businesses, government jurisdictions, and education and non-profit communities that promotes cooperation to improve the environment and quality of life in our region, advocates for a balance between economic development and environmental quality, and convenes business, community and civic leaders in thoughtful public dialogue on critical sustainability issues.

The Underwood Family Sonoran Landscape Laboratory (SLL) won a Crescodia in the category of Site Development—Public Sector. The lab is the heart of the CAPLA. Transforming 1.2-acres of the parking lot into an oasis, the SLL was part of a 2007 expansion and integral to an architectural/landscape expression of college values. Designed by the internationally renowned landscape architect Christine Ten Eyck, FASALA, and constructed entirely through the generosity of donors, the SLL is a research-oriented public garden that demonstrates water-conscious design, urban wildlife habitat, urban flood mitigation and urban heat-island reduction. The project employs five classic arid landscape design principles:

WATER SUSTAINABILITY: The SLL harvests water to create and sustain five biomes. Water is harvested from roof runoff, heating and air conditioning condensate and drinking fountains into an 11,600-gallon cistern, and then used to irrigate native low-water-use plants and source a pond. The A/C condensate alone contributes 95,000 gallons of water annually with 85,000 gallons coming from rainwater, saving 230,000 gallons per year in potable water.

REDUCTION OF THE URBAN HEAT ISLAND: The SLL’s extensive tree canopies, vertical trellis, and porous ground cover reduce the buildup of solar radiation in the college’s adjacent building and providing a cool outdoor microclimate. By quickly dispersing daytime heat, in addition to shading the walls and adjacent ground plane, the buildings cool much more quickly.

REDUCTION OF URBAN FLOODING: The SSL dramatically slows stormwater runoff by diverting it through four microbasins and riparian area runoff channels lined with urbanite (recycled construction rubble). During storms, the SSL’s lower patio fills, then slowly releases over 18 hours, up to 6,000-gallons into the downstream portions of the garden.

RECONNECTION WITH NATURE: The SSL is composed of five biomes of the Sonoran Desert: the Upper Sonoran, Desert Wetland, Desert Riparian, Mesquite Bosque, and Desert Canyon, each populated by its respective diversity of plants and animals. The 18,000-gallon Desert Wetland, for example, is home to numerous species that includes three threatened or endangered fish- and two reptile-species that were introduced as part of a reclamation program. The constant presence of predators and prey are indicators of a healthy bio-diverse habitat.

AN INTERPRETIVE OASIS: Interpretive signage and videos were added to teach the guiding principles of the SLL. The college uses the space for formal dinners and ceremonies; students use it for socializing and events. The SSL is the heart of college life as well as a model of how architecture and landscape architecture should be mutually interactive: the air conditioner condensate feeds the garden, which shades the building, which reduces the need for air conditioning.

The School of Architecture nominated SLL for the award on behalf of Richard Underwood, the Underwood Family and AAA Landscape who continue to contribute 100% of the SLL’s maintenance and upkeep.

The Downtown Tucson 2050 Plan was awarded the Northern Arizona University Environmental Education and Communication Crescordia Award for a joint effort between CAPLA, GLHN Architects and Engineers, and the City of Tucson and Pima County employees for a plan to achieve year 2050 carbon and water neutrality targets without sacrificing either livability or projected growth in downtown Tucson. As cities are pushed to the forefront of global climate leadership, long-range design and planning are increasingly urgent, yet municipalities face resource constraints. This project offers a replicable model for academia to join with practice and local Arizona governments to educate and envision bold solutions to some of our largest urban challenges: climate adaptability, local resiliency, and future livability. 

The semester-long project, led by Crosson and ten students studying either architecture and landscape architecture, employed case study research, spatial mapping, quantitative analysis and design inquiry. The broad-based 2050 plan includes three components disseminated through a 204-page book: (1) district energy, water, and living infrastructure, (2) district land use plan with sustainable building prototypes and (3) three sub-district master plans with rendered visions. 

Two major trends are re-shaping our future Arizona cities: the projected effects of carbon emissions and water deficits. For the first, this project produced a net zero energy pathway for downtown Tucson now being incorporated into Tucson’s recent commitment to honor the Paris Climate Accord. For the second, this plan created an actionable model for Arizona urban areas to reach water independence while supporting economic viability, social equity, and ecological health. The living infrastructure integrated new technologies, 100% storm water retention and the revitalization of the historic Santa Cruz River.

While the downtown Tucson 2050 Plan is a vision for the future, meeting our largest urban challenges requires public, private, and academic partners to act now. This pedagogy trained Arizona’s future planners and designers to face large environmental challenges by leveraging local expertise and resources for viable action through regional cooperation. This educational initiative has secured multiyear investment from private and public partners as a result of the work in this Downtown Tucson 2050 Plan.

Sonoran Landscape Laboratory in action its site development plans

Sonoran Landscape Laboratory in action its site development plans

Tucson 2050 plans and a glimpse of the 204 page book produced as part of the project

NEWS | School of Architecture Earns High Marks and 8 Year Accreditation

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
“This is the first year, in all the years I’ve been here, that the School of Architecture won’t be preparing for accreditation. We’ve passed our accreditation at the highest level a school can achieve. Because of that, we’ll spend this year exploring just how great we can become.” – Director Robert Miller.
The University of Arizona’s College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture is proud to announce that its School of Architecture has earned full 8-year National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB) accreditation for both of its accredited programs, the Bachelor of Architecture and the Master of Architecture. The school is now able to maintain its standings among the other 134 accredited architecture programs in the United States and abroad.
Additionally, the Master of Science in Architecture was reviewed by the University for its curriculum, acceptance and graduation rates, and research produced. It too received high marks from the reviewing parties.
In order to meet the accreditation requirements, the school produced a massive exhibit spanning much of the available floor space throughout the college’s buildings to display student and faculty work. Michael Kothke, exhibit coordinator notes, “as obviously important as it was to demonstrate our school's alignment with NAAB criteria, it was also important that the exhibition be a celebration of our school. The concept behind the exhibit design was that it first be an immersive display of the creative and intellectual work of our students and faculty, reflecting our culture and values, and then secondly, that the NAAB demonstrations be made clearly evident. The goal was to make a holistic impression.”
The school met many of the NAAB’s Student Performance Criteria “with distinction” including Curricular Assessment and Development for both accredited programs, and Professional Communication Skills, Design Thinking Skills, Investigative Skills, Structural Systems, Research, Evaluation and Decision Making, and Integrative Design for the B.Arch. Both the M.Arch and the B.Arch received the “met with distinction” nod for each requirement in Realm D: Professional Practice area. This realm reviews such standards as Stakeholder Roles in Architecture, Project Management, Business Practices, Legal Responsibilities, and Professional Ethics.
The school was able to overcome the criterion that was not met in a previous accreditation visit, the M.Arch’s Comprehensive Design Requirements. It also received positive marks for areas of great improvement including Construction Cost Control, Technical Documentation, Accessibility, Site Design, Comprehensive Design, Building Service Systems, Client Role in Architecture, Legal Responsibilities, and Ethics and Professional Judgment.
In total, there were 52 criteria reviewed by the visiting accreditation team. The school either “met” or “met with distinction” 51 of those standards.
Preparing for this accreditation visit was years in the making. School of Architecture Accreditation Archivist Ray Barnes says, “I wish to acknowledge the incredible collaborative energy contributed by the entire 5-member SoA accreditation team, Michael Kothke, Brad Lang, Beth Weinstein, Robert Miller, and myself, and the detailed, time-consuming, participation by the entire School of Architecture faculty.  We have a great student body, a great program, a great faculty. Assembling the documented evidence required a lot of planning and a lot of work.”
“The Visiting Accreditation Team found evidence of a positive and respectful relationship between the students and the program’s faculty, administration, and staff. The program has a clear studio culture policy, and it is evident that all key stakeholders in the program understand the policy,” states the NAAB Visiting Team, from their formal report. 
Other excerpts from the report are as follows:
REALM A (Critical Thinking and Representation): “Among the components assessed in Realm A, the team recognized both B. Arch and M. Arch students’ exceptional investigative skills, cogent critical analysis, and strong graphic representation. The comprehensiveness and care with which faculty construct syllabi are clearly reflected in the success of their students’ outcomes.”
REALM B (Building Practices, Technical Skills and Knowledge): “The program demonstrates exemplary achievement in the integrated design and understanding of technical systems, sustainability, materiality, and technical systems, sustainability, materiality, and technical communication. The pedagogical cultures of making, craft, fabrication, and environmental stewardship coalesce in the achievements of student learning aspirations for this realm. The careful coordination within studio sections—horizontally between the studio and support courses, vertically within the degree program, and holistically via assessment—is readily apparent and clearly beneficial to the student outcomes.”
REALM C (Integrated Architectural Solutions): “The team room exhibits provide ample evidence that the students are able to synthesize a wide range of variables into an integrated design solution. The work exhibited has demonstrated the understanding and abilities in Realm C that is required to synthesize the integrative thinking that shapes complex design and technical architectural solutions. The work also shows a response to environmental stewardship in multiple systems leading to an integrated solution. All the criteria in Realm C are Met with Distinction for the Bachelor of Architecture program.”
REALM D (Professional Practice): “The team found that the criteria of Realm D were Met with Distinction for both programs as seen in the Ethics and Practice course, ARC 459 and ARC 550c. The lectures and project assignments in the Ethics and Practice course provide students with rich exposure to the broad spectrum of Student Performance Criteria in this realm; however, the team observed that the breadth of criteria carried by this single course stood in contrast to the program’s approach to addressing the criteria via multiple courses in other realms. The instructional development for this course was exceptional.” 
Photos from the exhibition:
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