The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York, NY

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The new academic and science lab building at 41 Cooper Square in New York City is an innovative and technologically advanced research, academic and cultural center with pioneering sustainable features.

The Syska Hennessy Group engineering team was tasked with designing and implementing an MEP infrastructure that would support the building for the next 100 years, help foster collaboration among academic disciplines and enable the building systems to be accessible for study by the building’s users. They also set sustainable goals and green strategies to achieve Cooper Union’s rigorous requirement for a sustainable and energy-efficient building.

The complexity of the building—with limited space and a small footprint—and building systems required that the engineering team be fluent in the latest design tools and techniques to assist the architects in building placement, massing, orientation and envelope performance. The team identified engineering applications and designs, including radiant heating and cooling, air-side heat recovery, VAV fume hoods, a double-wall façade and green roof, that not only enhance the architecture but make the building more efficient.

Cooper Union’s engineering applications and designs include:

  • Application of radiant heating and cooling ceiling panels in the academic spaces. Hot and cold water are circulated through radiant ceiling panels to modulate the building temperature and increase building occupants’ comfort. This is the first use of radiant ceiling cooling in New York City.
  • A four-story atrium that encourages collaboration by allowing occupants to flow throughout the building and that provides meeting, lecture and gathering spaces. Engineers significantly improved the efficiency of this space by introducing radiant heating and cooling on the floors on the lower levels.
  • The introduction of air-side heat recovery, which is being used to return the air at the top of the atrium to the laboratory spaces. Using the atrium air as supply air rather than outside air reduces energy costs because the air is already heated, cooled and conditioned. Classrooms and offices are supplied with 100-percent outside air, which is returned to the atrium and in turn through the air-side recovery back to the laboratory spaces. Supply air from the atrium also contributes to the flexibility of the laboratory spaces. The ability to redirect conditioned atrium air for laboratory use reduces energy costs. Also in the laboratories, high-efficiency VAV fume hoods with adjustable sash positions have been installed. These VAV fume hoods can reduce energy consumption by as much as one-third each, and since each conventional fume hood can use enough energy to heat a single house, the energy savings are significant.
  • Use of a double-wall façade. The exterior face of the façade, which is a 50-percent perforated metal skin, allows the use of an efficient, low-cost, off-the-shelf curtain wall behind it. The exterior building skin is provided with operable panels that can control the level of daylight entering the building. The project team developed control strategies for panel operation and worked on integration of panel power supplies and controls into the building systems. Use of this façade, through modeling, significantly reduces the demand on equipment required for cooling and heating.
  • A green roof, which not only reduces energy consumption but also mitigates several urban problems by reducing stormwater runoff and easing the burden on local sewers and water treatment plants. The roof’s vegetation also keeps the roof cooler in summer, lowering the air-conditioning costs and lowering the demand on local power plants during peak conditions. No potable water is being used for rooftop irrigation; instead, rainwater is being collected in a rooftop stormwater tank. Engineers also designed a secondary storage tank within the building to collect rainwater for use as greywater for flushing toilets on the lower floors of the building.

The key to implementing a design solution that was far superior to conventional campus buildings was the establishment of an integrated team of architects, engineers and The Cooper Union.

The result is a 39.3-percent more efficient building than a standard building of this type, and it is the first LEED Platinum academic building in New York City.

AIA New York Chapter, Architecture Design Awards, 2010

LEED Status
LEED© Platinum for new construction

175,000 sf

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

Owner’s Rep
Jonathan Rose Companies LLC

Morphosis Architects

F. J. Sciame Construction Co., Inc.

MEP/fire protection
Fire alarm and life safety
Building management systems
Flexible infrastructure design