Volume 78 - Number 46 / April 22 -28, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Villager photo by Joe Margolis

Cooper Union’s new state-of-the-art building is under construction in Cooper Square.

Cooper Union engineers energy-efficient lab building

By Ronni Denes

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art has been a force for change and critical thinking in education, art, engineering and architecture for 150 years. As a cornerstone of the East Village for a century and a half, the college provides every accepted student with a full-tuition scholarship. Its unwavering commitment to academic rigor and innovation can be seen in its outstanding, nationally ranked programs, top-notch faculty and, beginning this fall, its new, state-of-the-art academic building at 41 Cooper Square. 

Designed by 2005 Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis, 41 Cooper Square, New York City’s first green academic laboratory building, will house the Albert Nerken School of Engineering and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, along with additional facilities for the School of Art and the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture.

Illustrating Cooper Union’s commitment to innovation, the nine-story, 175,000-square-foot, full-block academic building incorporates reconfigurable, state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories, studios and public spaces, all designed to maximize the use of sustainable materials and green technologies and to ensure energy efficiency and air quality. Built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold standards, the building is likely to achieve LEED Platinum — the highest-level rating in the U.S. Green Building Council system.  

The Cooper Union’s building team is comprised of Thom Mayne/Morphosis with Gruzen Samton LLP architects; Jonathan Rose Company, Cooper Union’s owner’s representative; and F.J. Sciame Construction Co., Inc., construction manager for the project. When completed, 41 Cooper Square will be 40 percent more energy efficient than standard, similar-sized buildings and will include advanced green features such as:

• Innovative radiant heating and cooling technology— the first used in the U.S. — to conserve energy and increase efficiency.

• An outer layer of semitransparent mesh screen to cool the building during the summer and warm it in the winter by controlling daylight, energy use and natural ventilation.

• Carbon dioxide detectors throughout the building to automatically dim power and ventilation when rooms are unoccupied — saving on energy and costs.

• A cogeneration system to produce power for the new building, reducing the need to tap into the outside electrical grid.

• A green roof covered by a layer of low-maintenance plantings, to reduce city “heat island” effects, as well as storm-water runoff, noise, summer air conditioning cost and winter heat demand.

• Low-flow plumbing devices, which, along with the green roof, will save more than 600,000 gallons of water annually.

To further reduce the college’s carbon footprint, Cooper Union is also retrofitting its landmark Foundation Building to include many environmental upgrades, including a co-generation plant and advanced control systems. The efficiency of the two buildings combined will enable Cooper Union to meet and surpass the call issued by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, when The Cooper Union, along with other New York City colleges, joined “PlaNYC Challenge Partners,” an initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from building operations by 30 percent by 2017. 

Like the Foundation Building’s Great Hall and Houghton Gallery, 41 Cooper Square will incorporate several exceptional public spaces — the Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Exhibition Foyer and a new gallery — where events and exhibitions will be offered throughout the year to the public at no or little cost.   

To commemorate the opening of 41 Cooper Square, an important milestone in Cooper Union’s history, a ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 15, 2009. It’s one event in a yearlong program of celebrations planned for Cooper Union’s 150th anniversary. 

For more information about 41 Cooper Square, one of New York City’s great new works of architecture, visit www.cooper.edu.

Denes is Cooper Union’s vice president for external affairs

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