February 27, 2012

University Seeks Architect for Tech Campus Building

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Cornell is currently in the process of selecting an architect to design the main building of the New York City tech campus. As of Monday night, Cornell has narrowed down the candidates to six high profile architecture firms, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Finalists include Skidmore, Owens & Merrill — the firm that helped put together Cornell’s intitial proposal for the campus.

Cornell administrators aim to select an architect by April in order to be ready to break ground by the end of 2013, when New York City will turn land on Roosevelt Island over to the University.

“We would like to have an architect selected by April,” Kyu Whang, vice president of facilities services, said. “By March of next year, we have to have the final schematic design ready to submit to the city.”

The campus’ main academic building will produce “net zero energy” — it will use the same amount of energy that it produces.

“You want to reduce the energy footprint of that building as much as possible … and then you generate then that equivalent amount of energy on site,” Whang said.

In addition to selecting an architect, the University must select a third party to construct a second building on campus, which will house research and development for private companies. This building will not have net-zero energy usage, but must have at least a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification at the Silver level, according to Whang. To receive Silver LEED certification, the building must score at least 33 out of a possible 69 points in five categories of sustainable design features.

Cornell will lease one third of the second building to a third party developer and the other two thirds will be used for research by startups and other companies, according to Whang. The third party has not yet been selected.

“It will be built by a third party developer partners who will build buildings for us. We don’t have as much control over what the designs might be,” Whang said. “We are trying to put together as tight a contract — a lease contract — as possible so that we do have some level of control.”

This building will enable private companies  to work with Cornell students and staff on research projects.

“This will be space for companies compatible with the mission of the campus who are interested in working closely with Cornell, Technion and our students, faculty, staff and alumni,” said Cathy Dove, vice president of the tech campus. “We are already receiving inquiries from organizations interested in being located on our campus and working closely with us.”

Dove said that students will also profit from the tech campus’ partnerships with startup companies.

“Our students will benefit as they will have the ability to work closely with these companies right on the campus — there will be internships, project work,” she said. “The partners want to be on campus to have easy access to the programs and activities at CornellNYC Tech, and develop close working relationships with our faculty and students.”

Both of the buildings will be 150,000 square feet — comparable in size to Duffield Hall — and will be completed by July 2017, Whang said.

The academic building will achieve net-zero energy usage by both reducing the energy it uses and producing energy on site.

“For now our vision is to use photovoltaic panels — solar panels,” Whang said. “We’re planning roughly four acres of solar panels.”

In addition to housing classrooms and offices, the net-zero energy building “will be designed to facilitate interaction and showcase research. In addition, there will be incubation space, room for workshops and seminars for the broader community,” Dove said.

However, Whang said that a definitive outline of the building’s design has not yet been determined.

“We don’t really have anything definitive as to how many of each we’re going to have,” Whang said. “All we know is it’s going to be classrooms and a lot of open space,  so to encourage collaboration amongst people who are in the building — faculty, staff and students — give people a place to congregate and to meet and have chance meetings with each other.”

The University has not yet acquired various approvals from the city and New York State, which must be obtained before construction can begin in January 2014.

“Right now we’re going through an environmental and land use approval phase with several city agencies and state agencies,” Whang said. “That’s what we’ll be doing the next two years.”

Original Author: Joseph Niczky