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Green Design Helps New Medical Center Beat the Heat in Arizona

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Healing—and keeping cool—in style

As a "heat dome" covers much of the country this week, pushing temperatures from sea to shining sea into the high 90s and low 100s, architectural ways to mitigate hot weather and provide shelter are very much on our minds. This is pretty much always the case during the summer months in Phoenix, Arizona—where June to August temperatures frequently hit 110+ degrees Fahrenheit.

This scorching, dry environment helped shape a new medical center in the Arizona capital, the University of Arizona Cancer Center. Designed by ZGF Architects, the 220,000-square-foot facility is wrapped in a perforated metal screen with angled panels that give the facade some dynamism and help screen the interiors from the harsh desert sun. Inside, a bright, neutral material and color palette—think sand-colored stone on the walls and floors of polished alabaster-hued terrazzo.

These kinds of strategies for keeping spaces cool have the added benefit of providing a soothing space in which to treat and heal from such a serious ailment. But there are other, more muscular—and sustainable, to boot—cooling strategies at play, too, including a chilled-beam system (it also provides heating in the winter months) in the ceiling. Water piped through the system helps cool nearby air and makes its way downward through the space as less dense warm air rises. Take a look around.