Case Precedent: Tempe Transportation Center

The Tempe Transportation Center, opened on December 28, 2008, serves the Phoenix Arizona community by connecting light rail and several regional bus lines. It is located blocks away from Arizona State University. The building includes retail, a transit store, bicycle storage (with repair and accessories), a community room, and transit operations center.

According to Architectural Record,

The brief initially called for a large bus plaza and a 5,000-square-foot building with restrooms and a ticket counter. The program evolved, however, as the light-rail project gained momentum and the surrounding district saw a burst of construction activity. Ultimately, the architects were charged with conceiving a bus plaza and a multistory building containing offices for the city’s transit division, leasable commercial space, a community room, and an indoor bike garage with shower facilities. “This place was an opportunity to show people that we can have alternatives to the car,” explains Bonnie Richardson, AIA, principal planner and architect for the City of Tempe’s transportation department. After teaming up for an RFQ, Otak and Architekton won the commission in 2004 and worked in tandem on the design.

Figuring out how to accommodate a steady stream of buses — approximately 300 a day — in a relatively tight space was “the first piece of the puzzle,” explains Ron Dean, an architect with Otak. The design team stretched a 52-foot-wide, curved driveway, lined by 13 bus shelters, across nearly the entire width of the 2.7-acre, triangular site. To the north is the light-rail stop, where a train arrives every 10 minutes during peak hours.

Edging the western portion of the site is a three-story, steel-framed box that reaches toward the street and houses most of the center’s programmatic elements. Its design is sensible and straightforward. Tucked farther back, however, is a 2,400-square-foot wing that was envisioned as “an expressive, sculptural counterpoint,” describes John Kane, FAIA, Architekton design principal. Its faceted roof is made of pearlescent aluminum-composite panels that appear gold in the morning and sage green in the afternoon.

This elevated wing, which contains the community room, rests on pilotis, forming a ground-level plaza with seating, landscaped beds, and gabion walls filled with glass slag and multicolored LEDs. At night, the walls, designed by artist Lorna Jordan, glow brightly and enliven the center. During the day, the deeply shaded plaza provides refuge from the scorching summer heat.

The sun is always a vital concern in Phoenix. In the case of the transit building, the architects couldn’t employ the optimal east-west orientation due to the bus plaza. And so, “every facade we considered, we were thinking about how to mitigate solar exposure,” says Dean. They clad most of the rectilinear volume in low-E, insulated glass and used various shading strategies. On the east, for instance, 18 motorized screens, each approximately 10 by 17 feet, are programmed to deploy at dawn and retract at noon. On the west, where the building core is located, the architects opted for an opaque facade with slit windows. Here, a ribbed concrete-masonry skin not only refers to the adjacent building (a police station) but also “provides a thermal break,” Kane explains.

The interior design feels modern and fresh. The finishes and furnishings were chosen for their ecofriendly attributes, from bamboo office doors to countertops made of recycled paper. Thanks to ample glazing and a fairly narrow floor plate, “You don’t have to turn on the lights” during the day, Kane says, adding that the facility is projected to consume about 50 percent less energy than a comparable building. Other sustainable features include an underfloor air-distribution system, a graywater-recycling system, and a green roof.

The building is seeking Platinum LEED certification. According to the project manager Parsons,

Tempe actively supports LEED-certified projects. As such, the TTC was designed to use 52% less energy, and it is one of the first buildings of its kind to be submitted for LEED platinum certification to the U.S. Green Building Council. It is currently awaiting LEED platinum confirmation.

Designed to blend in to the Tempe landscape, the center was oriented on the site to preserve its featured views of the adjacent Hayden Butte, a historically significant geological formation and culturally significant site to Native Americans of Hohokam origin. The arid climate of the Sonoran Desert influenced the development of the project, which incorporates many sustainable features:

  • Green roof with desert landscaping
  • 12,000-gallon rainwater recovery cistern
  • Graywater recovery and recycling system
  • Mechanical/retractable shading devices
  • Solar water heating
  • Underfloor ventilation system
  • Lighting controls
  • Bicycle station with showers
  • No-flush waterless urinals
  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures

To create and support the public’s awareness of the project’s sustainability strategies, the TTC also features a Green Touchscreen dashboard detailing the building’s energy consumption, water use, and other environmentally important features.

Cost: $18.1 million

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