The $70 million, 69,000-sq.ft. Science Hall facility at Lehman College’s Bronx, N.Y. campus has earned United States Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED Platinum certification, the first City University of New York (CUNY) and university-level teaching and research facility in New York City to be awarded this certification, and the fourth in the state of New York. Design started on the building in 2006, with construction spanning nearly a five-year process—from 2008-2013.
The building features a blend of teaching, research and administrative space. It has been designed to promote collaboration among scientific disciplines and, at the same time, integrate teaching with research to increase undergraduate engagement with current research projects. These projects are tackling such issues as vitamin A deficiency, uncovering knowledge about diseases like cancer and schizophrenia, and studying medicinal plants for possible use in treating diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“CUNY is preparing students to meet global challenges—in the environment, the control of disease, the search for new resources and many other areas of human life,” says Iris Weinshall, vice chancellor for facilities planning, construction and management, who notes that the University has set an ambitious goal to have as much as a quarter of its facilities portfolio, which includes many historic and landmark buildings, energy efficient by 2017. “Meeting faculty research and teaching needs by providing up-to-date labs and instrumentation is essential to this learning process.”
Centered around a core of lab support spaces, faculty offices and seminar rooms, the building’s entry is defined by a multi-story glass atrium that links teaching with research activities and supports interaction among students, faculty and researchers.
With more than 60,000 alumni and 12,000 students, Lehman College serves the Bronx and the surrounding region, and is committed to addressing the critical need for the advancement of science and technology. The Science Hall becomes a gateway to the sciences for Bronx students and is the first in a three-phase plan to create a dedicated science campus at the College.
“This project and its Platinum rating reflects Lehman College’s commitment to a culture of environmental responsibility, and the creation and adoption of clean energy innovations on campus and throughout New York City,” says president Ricardo R. Fernandez. “Science Hall and its potential represent the best of what public higher education can achieve for our society.”
Sustainability in action
The state-of-the-art facility was designed by architectural firm Perkins + Will and built by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), and has benefitted from the expertise of mechanical engineer Syska + Hennessy Group, Inc.; construction manager Gilbane Construction Corp.; general contractor Calcedo Construction; Aspro Plumbing and BP Mechanical.
Green design features are rooted in a fundamental goal of the project: to foster interdisciplinary, collaborative relationships among students, faculty and academic departments. The primary expression of this intent is found at the intersection of the teaching and research wings, where a dramatic, four-story atrium provides light-filled, informal gathering spaces surrounded by an open stair linking all levels. In addition, a series of small seating areas located along the courtyard circulation create opportunities for spontaneous interaction.
“We recognize the importance of this facility to the College and its dedication to the advancement of science and technology. All of us at Gilbane are proud to share in this LEED Platinum achievement,” says Bill Gilbane III, vice president. “This new facility puts the Lehman College campus at the forefront of science research, education and innovation in the academic environment.”
Designed to showcase the College’s strength in plant science teaching and research, the new facility is itself a teaching tool. The central courtyard encloses a wetland of native grasses, hosting naturally occurring microbes capable of cleaning stormwater that can be recycled within the building for maintenance and cleaning.
Faculty and students can use this living system in their research—collecting samples to understand how contaminants in the water impact the ecosystem and how natural processes can remove these contaminants from the environment. The courtyard also serves as an “outdoor classroom,” inviting the broader campus community and visiting high school students to learn about plant science and sustainable practices, and to consider a science-based education and career.
The Science Hall, which held its first classes in the spring semester of 2013, earned its certification for an array of environmentally sustainable technologies, such as a rainwater/greywater system to clean and re-circulate water for use in restroom flushing fixtures and rooftop solar panels to heat the building’s water. An intelligent building management system and displays provide real-time information on building operations, such as the quantity of energy saved by the solar hot water panels or the amount of water cleansed and recirculated over the building’s lifespan.
The building also is equipped with a rooftop teaching and research greenhouse, which supports Lehman’s pioneering research in the plant sciences. In addition, 86% of demolition and construction waste to-date was diverted from landfills.
Other key sustainability features include building commissioning, brownfield redevelopment, alternative transportation, and the aforementioned greywater and rainwater collection. The building design achieves optimize energy performance or about 30% better than baseline, and provides ample daylight for occupied spaces.
According to Wayne Hui, vice president, Syska Hennessy Group, Inc., design of the HVAC system supports new science laboratories, which consist of 100% dedicated outside air handling units, high-efficiency induction fans for fume hood exhaust and a perchloric exhaust fan. This new science building utilizes campus steam and chilled water.
The plumbing design, continues Hui, consists of a solar hot water system to preheat water to the laboratory sinks. Plumbing systems include natural gas, compressed air, vacuum, reverse osmosis, helium, nitrogen and acid waste system. Rainwater is harvested, filtered in the wetland system and reused for flushing the water closets and urinals.
In addition, displays can provide real-time information on building operations, such as the quantity of energy saved by the solar hot water panels or the amount of water cleansed and recirculated over the building’s lifespan.
Other key sustainability features include occupancy sensors, radiant floor heating and efficient cellular acrylic glazing in the rooftop greenhouse, a high-reflectivity "cool roof,” operable windows and individual thermostatic controls in faculty offices, and building commissioning. Other features include brownfield redevelopment, alternative transportation, and both graywater and rainwater collection.
With any high-profile project, the ability to work with the design team and across the trades to achieve common goals is imperative. “A new science building is difficult enough to design and build, adding to it the requirements of LEED makes the project that much more challenging,” says Hui. “The entire team understood the significance of this project for CUNY and Lehman College. Good communication and collaboration between the design team and construction team was critical in this successful project.”
Plumbing contractor, Aspro Plumbing, Inc., concurs. “There is no job that is headache-free,” says Vincent Aspromonte Jr., president of Aspro Plumbing Inc., which performed the piping and associated SycroFlow pumps and tanks for the use of the greywater system. “Some of the job challenges were the logistics and coordinating of the services. As a team player, we worked well with the other tradesman and companies as well as the owner and design team. This was a big part in getting past the challenges.”
Aspro Plumbing also furnished and installed vacuum pumps, RO tanks and filtration systems, water booster pumps, a fire pump, acid tanks and chemicals for such, solar heating for domestic water use, and greywater tanks.
“The magnitude of plumbing in this building was far greater than most buildings of its size,” says Aspromonte. “The design team was very acceptable to working with trades to accomplish the end result.”
Mechanical Equipment specified, installed:
Air Handling Units: Trane
Supplemental Cooling System: Stulz
Variable Air Volume Boxes: Price
Constant Air Volume Boxes: Siemens
Induction Exhaust Fans: Strobic
Perchloric Exhaust Fan: MK Plastics
General Exhaust Fans: Greenheck
Plumbing Equipment installed:
Plumbing Fixtures: Kohler
Semi-Instantaneous Water Heater: PVI Industries
Vacuum Pump: Airtech
Air Compressor: Airtech
Domestic Water Booster Pump: Peerless & SyncroFlow Pumps
Hot Water and Chilled Water Circulation: Grundfos/PACO