Green Building Tour Recap - The New School University Center – Exposed!

Urban Green hosted a tour of The New School’s University Center, led by Director of Facilities Management, Thomas Whalen, and Senior Design Architect, Jon Cicconi (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill). As a design institution, the school took a unique approach to showing the “bones” of the building. And since it’s still under construction, we got a great look at what’s under building’s skin.

The Center has an exposed design aesthetic throughout. Classrooms will have exposed concrete ceilings - including conduit and paint marks – between their acoustic panels. Interior windows let students view the cafeteria from the lobby and the stairwells from the classrooms. A stairwell pressurization duct, which would normally be hidden from view in a shaft buried in the heart of the building, will be exposed and turned into a brass-clad work of art. And structural support beams are evident throughout.

Thomas Whalen explained some of the construction challenges faced by the project. For example, LED light fixtures will be used throughout. But due to long lead times, the entire building - even the currently occupied residential portion – uses fluorescent fixtures, all of which will have to be replaced when the prodigal LEDs arrive. I’d suggest contacting Thomas around January for a great deal on some secondhand fluorescent lighting fixtures!

Aiming for LEED Gold, the building will have many green features besides LED lighting. Tour participants stared in awe at the 14 ice storage tanks in the basement, which allow the building to run its cooling plant at night, making ice when electrical rates are cheap. During the day, the electrical cooling plant can be turned off and the building can be cooled using the ice. This saves on expensive daytime electricity, and can help the overloaded NYC grid survive summers. Gas-fired cogeneration at the top of the building will provide electricity and domestic hot water. And, we were told that lighting in dorm corridors, normally on 24 hours a day at most schools, will be bi-level and dimmed at night. That can add up to major savings over 365 days of the year.

Thanks to The New School, SOM, and Urban Green’s Emerging Professionals for hosting the tour.  



About the author

Cecil Scheib
Cecil Scheib is Chief Program Officer for Urban Green Council.