National model for accessible design opens in Arizona

Eco-friendly facility is designed around barrier-free interior and exterior circulation systems

February 06, 2009

Baldinger Architectural Studio, Inc. and Caliber Construction have recently completed the Disability Empowerment Center of Arizona (The DEC) in Phoenix, Arizona, a complex to be utilized as a national model for accessible design. The master planned site consists of a 64,000- square-foot office building, a four-level handicap-accessible parking garage, and a future 44,000- square-foot specialized sport and fitness center.

Groundbreaking on the Virginia G. Piper Sports and Fitness Center is scheduled for March 2009. The project was commissioned by Arizona Bridge for Independent Living (ABIL) under the leadership of Philip L. Pangrazio, Executive Director.The DEC is a universally designed, accessible, transit oriented, non-profit disability services campus serving the Greater Phoenix area through the collaboration and partnership of similar minded disability-oriented agencies. In addition to Arizona Bridge for Independent Living the DEC houses the Arizona Center for Disability Law, Raising Special Kids, The Arizona Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Joni & Friends, the Statewide Independence Living Council, Arizona Autism United, The Brain Injury Association of Arizona, The Arizona Spinal Cord Injury Association and Valley Center of the Deaf.

The DEC is an adaptive re-use of an existing 38,000-square-foot, 1970s brick and stucco clad office building. The existing structural skeleton was retained and expanded upon to create a state-of-the-art eco-friendly facility. The dark and confined spaces of the existing building are now expanded by the use of floor to ceiling window walls, flooding the interiors with natural light. Solar shade screens on the east and west façade reduce solar heat gain and control glare. A central courtyard introduces natural light deep within the building, illuminating corridors and common spaces. Utility consumption has been minimized through the use of daylighing, low flow plumbing fixtures, indigenous landscaping, and a high-efficiency centralized mechanical plant.

Eco-friendly interiors feature products and finishes with low emitting VOC’s, and offer safe rooms for individuals with chemical sensitivities. This unprecedented building type, designed to foster collaboration between similar minded disability oriented agencies, is a groundbreaking achievement in its broad scope and universal accessibility. The building is designed around a system of barrier free interior and exterior circulation systems. Social interaction is facilited between agencies through exterior gathering spaces, a café, common classrooms, training facilities, a 180-person conferencing center, and an 8,000-square-foot roof deck plaza overlooking the surrounding buttes. An on-site serving kitchen accommodates larger social gatherings and allows the DEC to host a variety of events specific to the disabled community.

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