Story at a glance:

  • The Interdisciplinary Science & Technology building 7 (ISTB-7) at Arizona State University is aiming for LEED Platinum certification.
  • GCP worked with Architekton | Grimshaw, Hanson Aggregates, McCarthy Building Companies, and others on this new ASU project.
  • Hanson Aggregates used fly ash alongside WRDA 64® water reducer with ADVA® 195 superplasticizer from GCP Applied Technologies.

Arizona State University’s Interdisciplinary Science and Technology 7 (ISTB-7) building, one of a growing number of higher education LEED buildings in the US, is the latest among dozens of LEED projects on ASU’s campus—and it’s by far the most ambitious.

ISTB-7 is a new, approximately 281,000-gross-square-foot, high-performance research facility set to be completed in late 2021. The project fosters an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge generation and leading-edge research, including innovative endeavors focusing on the sustainability of food, water, and energy.

In expanding the research district at ASU’s Tempe campus, the building will give researchers a means to collaborate on pressing environmental and food challenges. In addition to offering public outreach and exhibit space, ISTB-7 will be home to the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service, the School of Sustainability, the Institute of Human Origins, and a five-story courtyard biome of flora and fauna.

Using a range of innovative approaches, including evapotranspiration, photovoltaics, and ASU’s own carbon-capture technology, the building is pursuing LEED Platinum status.

The Challenge

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“When you’re placing 20,000 cubic yards of concrete, you need dependable partners who are pulling in the right direction,” says Carlos Diaz, McCarthy Building Companies Senior Project Manager. “Our partners have proven themselves, and the benefits of that are endless.” Photo courtesy of McCarthy Building Companies

Cement is carbon-intensive to produce so reducing the amount of cement in the building’s concrete mix was an essential element in lowering the project’s embodied carbon footprint.

The team set out to utilize a post-consumer byproduct to reduce the total amount of portland cement in the building structure by at least 40%.

“It takes a lot of equipment and resources to produce cement,” says Carlos Diaz, McCarthy Building Companies Senior Project Manager. “If you can replace a high percentage of cement with a recycled material like fly ash, you can offset a significant amount of carbon.”

In addition to the high criteria sustainability requirements, the concrete for this project needed to be aesthetically pleasing since it would be used in Class A architecturally exposed columns, walls, stairs, deck soffits, and polished concrete floors.

The Solution

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BubbleDeck designs involve inserting hollow plastic balls into the slab and holding them in place with steel reinforcement. The plastic balls would normally be filled with concrete. This design approach enabled lighter decks so the columns spacing is wider. Photo courtesy of McCarthy Building Companies

Ready-mix producer Hanson Aggregates, concrete contractor McCarthy Building Companies, and admixture supplier GCP Applied Technologies worked closely together to identify the right concrete mix that could substantially reduce the amount of cement in the mix. The firms brought together significant expertise in helping customers improve building durability and reduce waste.

Lehigh Hanson and its subsidiary Hanson Aggregates advocate for science-based research that drives innovation and sustainable building materials and design. Named one of the top 20 green builders in the country, McCarthy Building Companies is deeply involved in the evolution of sustainable construction. And GCP Applied Technologies develops products that make the manufacture of construction materials like concrete more energy-efficient.

Achieving the right concrete mix was no simple task. Although 40% cement-replacement mixes are not uncommon, they are usually used in a targeted approach, such as to control the heat of hydration. With this project, the mix would need to be applied whole scale through the entire building.

“Ready-mix concrete is sometimes viewed as a commodity, but the delivery of a product that has widescale application—especially one with architectural aspects to it—requires a significant mind shift,” Diaz says. “It takes months to determine the right mix, making sure the suppliers and chemical partners are working together to find the best admixtures, color, and supplementary cementitious material (SCM) for the application.”

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Aerial view of the construction in progress at ASU’s Interdisciplinary Science & Technology building 7 (ISTB-7). The team’s innovative approach extended to its application of concrete. Using a patented BubbleDeck design linking air, steel, and concrete in structural slabs, they reduced the amount of structural concrete needed on decks 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Photo courtesy of McCarthy Building Companies

“Our principal design firm, ready-mix supplier, sustainability consultant, admixture supplier, and structural engineer worked together to identify the best mix design to meet our goals,” says Kristine Sorensen, McCarthy Building Companies senior project engineer. “There was a great deal of collaboration involved with identifying a sustainable mix design that would meet the structural integrity measures and would also look outstanding.”

“Everyone involved in the project came together to discuss different mix design scenarios and how to use locally available resources,” says Joel Lopez Martinez, Hanson Aggregates quality control manager. “Using high fly ash mix design for the 6,000 PSI mix is beneficial as it reduces permeability to water and produces a densified product. GCP’s admixtures played a big part in the success of this mix design, as in help with water reduction by using WRDA 64 and increasing concrete workability by using ADVA 195.”

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Hanson Aggregates, McCarthy Building Companies, and GCP Applied Technologies worked together to make ASU’s Interdisciplinary Science & Technology building 7 (ISTB-7) even more sustainable. Photo courtesy of McCarthy Building Companies

“Many times we have a pool of ready-mix contractors to work with, and they have lots of mix designs already predetermined based on a project’s mix, strength, and flowability requirements,” Diaz says. “When you’re creating something new with high-strength requirements like this, there’s a big team effort required. Together we gathered input from the design team and then looked at all aspects of the job to answer questions like ‘How do you control heat?’ and ‘how will the mix flow through congested rebar?’”

For this mix Hanson Aggregates used fly ash alongside WRDA 64® water reducer with ADVA® 195 superplasticizer from GCP Applied Technologies. Once they selected a mix the team started batch trials to ensure it performed as structurally intended. They finalized the mix and began the concrete pour based on the success of those results.

“The ADVA® admixture gave us the opportunity to keep the water/cement ratio low while achieving high strength as well as the workability to place the concrete very easily,” says Bill Wheeler, quality control for Hanson Aggregates. “We prefer using the ADVA® admixture because it results in fewer bubbles against the surface than midrange water reducers. This creates a smoother finish on the forms.”

The project is slated for completion in December 2021. “This is a legacy building that tells a unique story,” Diaz says. “We’re privileged to be a part of it.”

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ASU’s Interdisciplinary Science & Technology building 7 (ISTB-7) achieved impressive sustainability goals with the help of GCP. Courtesy of Architekton | Grimshaw

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ASU’s Interdisciplinary Science & Technology building 7 (ISTB-7). CCourtesy of Architekton | Grimshaw

Project Credits

Project Name: Interdisciplinary Science & Technology building 7 (ISTB-7)
Owner: Arizona State University
Architect: Architekton | Grimshaw
Completion: Anticipated December 2021
Structural Engineer: BuroHappold
Sustainability Consultant: Thornton Tomasetti
Ready-mix Producer: Hanson Aggregates
Concrete Contractor: McCarthy Building Companies
GCP Solutions: WRDA® 64 water-reducing admixture, ADVA® 195 high-range admixture