Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton and others commemorated the opening of the $135-million Health Sciences Education Building at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus on Friday.

The 268,000-sq-ft space was built via a partnership between the University of Arizona College of Medicine and Northern Arizona University, and will eventually serve up to 1,200 students plus faculty and researchers.

The building’s general contractor, a joint venture of the Phoenix office of DPR Construction and Tempe, Ariz.-based Sundt Construction, reports that the building was delivered on time and on budget. The contractors began construction in May 2010 with excavation of a 250-ft by 80-ft hole to a depth of 22 ft. The structure utilized 22,000 cubic yards of concrete and 3.5 million lbs of rebar.

Structural engineering was performed by John A. Martin & Associates, Los Angeles, and the civil engineer was Phoenix-based Dibble Engineering.

“Not only is the Health Sciences Education Building an impressive architectural icon for the city and state, but it is a fundamentally essential building block to creating a better future for the health of Arizonans,” says Rick Myers, chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents.

The six-story building includes classrooms, three 140-seat lecture halls, medical simulation center, labs and offices, and was designed to encourage interaction between students and researchers in different health care fields. This echoes the teamwork between the project’s two design firms, Los Angeles-based CO Architects and the Tempe office of Ayers Saint Gross, says Paul Zajfen, design principal at CO Architects.

A striking two-story, 13,400-sq-ft library sits at the heart of the building, and a multi-story ‘canyon’ atrium cuts through the center of the building, creating a naturally shady spot in the desert heat. But the building’s most iconic feature is its copper skin, comprised of 10,000 individual copper panels, flashings and other parts, totaling approximately 250,000 lbs., plus another 30,000 lbs of zinc.

Since all of the copper panels required custom cuts or folds, fabricator Kovach Inc. of Chandler, Ariz. had to design and purchase custom machinery and equipment to fabricate the unusual panel system, says Stephen Kovach V, preconstruction manager for the firm.  The exterior skin is formed by 116 vertical fins and shaded with more than 1,200 feet of custom copper sunshades. All the copper is recycled, helping to contribute to the project’s LEED-Silver goal.