Cornell Tech aims for net-zero efficiency at Bloomberg Center

Cornell Tech has announced details of its plan to achieve net-zero energy efficiency for the Bloomberg Center, the first academic building on the Roosevelt Island campus, scheduled to open in September.

Cornell’s aspiration is for the building, designed by the architecture firm Morphosis, to reach net-zero and LEED Platinum status, with all of the energy needed to power the building generated on campus.

The campus is employing multiple strategies, including solar power, geothermal ground source heat pumps, an energy-efficient façade balancing the ratio between transparency and opaqueness to maximize building insulation and decrease energy demand, and smart building features monitoring lighting and plug load use.

A solar array also tops The Bridge, a corporate co-location building designed by the architecture firm Weiss/Manfredi, providing additional renewable energy for the Bloomberg Center. As part of the campus focus on sustainability and efficiency, the first residential building on campus will be the world’s first high-rise passive house building.

“Cornell Tech will have some of the most environmentally friendly and energy-efficient buildings in the world,” said Dan Huttenlocher, founding dean of Cornell Tech and vice provost. “The Bloomberg Center is our main academic hub on campus and, inspired by the Bloomberg model, we’re reinforcing our commitment to innovation and sustainability by pushing the boundaries of current energy efficiency practices and setting a new standard for building in New York.”

The strategy to achieve a low-energy building is through a stepped approach prioritizing reduction in energy demand through load reductions as well as maximizing passive and energy efficient design, and using renewable energy to power the building systems. Strategies to achieve net zero at the Bloomberg Center include:

An all-electric building: No fossil fuel is used in the building.

Geothermal wells: 80 closed-loop geothermal wells, each 400-feet deep, were drilled below the campus. The electrically powered ground-source heat pumps are used to heat and cool the building in conjunction with an active chilled-beam system.

Solar power: Built with EnterSolar, an acre-sized photovoltaic array tops the Bloomberg Center and The Bridge. The designs of the Bloomberg Center and The Bridge incorporate the panels as an integral building design feature, converging engineering requirements and architecture. The array on the Bloomberg Center provides the building with shade.

Highly insulated façade: A unitized, continuously insulated rainscreen wall system covered by a metal panel façade designed by Morphosis architects balances exterior views and daylight while maximizing facade insulation.

Smart building technology: Smart building features, designed by Morphosis and engineering firm Arup, links lighting control, occupancy sensors, security and other building controls to provide on-demand power and respond to user needs and occupancy.

Green roof: A low-maintenance green roof incorporates native plant species along the southeast edge of the building to help cool the lower roof surface.

The Bloomberg Center stands four stories and includes 160,000 square feet of academic space with a low and narrow profile that allows for views across the island, while maximizing daylight. Open offices and an open galleria extend through the length of the building, and enclaves for impromptu meetings will encourage encounters, discussion and collaboration.

The building incorporates a 40,000-gallon rainwater harvesting tank buried under the campus lawn, providing for nonpotable water use for building toilets, building cooling tower and site irrigation. The project has been raised up to increase its resiliency and protect against future flooding, with key mechanical equipment located on the rooftop.

The building was named after a $100 million gift from Michael Bloomberg, who was responsible for bringing Cornell Tech to New York City while serving as mayor.

The Bloomberg Center will open in September at the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island during phase 1 of a planned three-phase construction process slated to end in 2043.

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Daryl Lovell