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Green architecture – 41 Cooper Square

By Damir Beciri
15 November 2009

41-cooper-square_-morphosisBuilt to LEED Gold standards and likely to achieve a Platinum rating, 41 Cooper Square will be the first LEED-certified academic laboratory building in New York City. Designed by Morphosis Architects, the new academic building aspires to manifest the character, culture and vibrancy of both the 150 year-old The Cooper Union institution and of the city in which it was founded. The building reflects the institution’s and architect’s stated goal to create an iconic building – one that reflects its values and aspirations as a center for advanced and innovative education in Art, Architecture and Engineering.

It houses three previously separated schools, and therefore enhances collaboration and cross-disciplinary dialogue among the college’s three schools. A vertical piazza forms the heart of the new academic building. The 6 meter wide grand stairs ascend four stories from the ground level through the sky-lit central atrium. The stairs themselves are nothing like we seen yet, so we had to post several images of them (just click to enlarge).

A full-height atrium enables unique circulation for building occupants, improves the flow of air and provides increased interior day lighting. Seventy-five percent of the building’s regularly occupied spaces are lit by natural daylight. This vertical piazza is the social heart of the building, providing a place for impromptu and planned meetings, student gatherings, lectures, and for the intellectual debate that defines the academic environment.

From the double-high entry lobby, the grand stair ascends four stories to terminate in a glazed double-high student lounge overlooking the city. On the fifth through ninth floors, sky lobbies and meeting places (a student lounge, seminar rooms, lockers, and seating areas overlooking the cityscape) are organized around the central atrium. Sky bridges span the atrium to create connections between these informal spaces.

Further reinforcement of the strategy to create a vibrant intellectual space is provided by the “skip-stop” circulation strategy which allows for both increased physical activity and for more spontaneous meeting opportunities. The primary skip-stop elevators, which make stops at the first, fifth and eighth floors, encourage occupants to use the grand stairs and sky bridges. Secondary elevators stop at each floor, both for ADA compliance and for the practical tasks of moving materials, artworks, and equipment.

The building reverberates with light, shadow and transparency via a high performance exterior double skin whose semi-transparent layer of perforated stainless steel wraps the building’s glazed envelope to provide critical interior environmental control, while also allowing for transparencies to reveal the creative activity occurring within. The panels reduce the impact of heat radiation during the summer and insulate interior spaces during the winter. A green roof insulates the building, reduces city “heat island” effect, storm water runoff and pollutants. The harvested water is reused.

Radiant heating and cooling ceiling panels introduce innovative HVAC technology that will boost energy efficiency. This contributes to making the new building 40 percent more energy efficient than a standard building of its type. A cogeneration plant provides additional power to the building, and recovers waste heat and effectively cuts energy costs.

The unique façade, curving profile of the central atrium, its internal organization that encourages occupants to be more physically active and collaborative, as well as the green solutions enables Cooper Union to advance its legacy of innovative ideas, cross-disciplinary knowledge, and creative practices to its new occupants.

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