On April 3, Columbia stated it will begin construction on a state-of-the-art medical research building that will be New York City’s first all-electric university research building.

On April 3, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) reported that it will begin construction of New York City’s first all-electric university research building in May. The biomedical research building, located in Washington Heights, is designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF). It will have eight stories of research facilities and laboratories, collaboration corners, living walls, and community engagement spaces. 

Columbia stated the new building will be the center of Columbia’s research on diseases and development of novel treatments for many threatening conditions for human health such as neurodegenerative disease, autoimmune disease, metabolic disorders, heart disease, and cancer. 

The biomedical building will allegedly outperform New York City’s emission limits set by Local Law 97 and expedite Columbia University’s goal of achieving campus-wide net-zero emissions by 2050, adhering to the University’s Plan 2030. The new facility will be New York City’s first university-owned research building that does not use fossil fuels, instead opting for sustainable architecture. The building will reportedly use far less energy than its counterparts and is predicted to be 30% more efficient than the ASHRAE 90.1 2010 standard, a US energy efficiency benchmark. 

Katrina Armstrong, Dean of the Faculties and Health Sciences and Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences, stated, “To create a space that will advance biomedical science, bring us closer to our local community, and help our medical center reduce its carbon footprint all in one is truly remarkable.” Armstrong also commented that the new building is a space for the University “to drive discovery, educate next-generation leaders, and create inclusive partnerships with our community.”

The laboratory floors in the building will accommodate 32 principal investigators and their teams of research technicians, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students. It plans to include collaboration corners between research spaces that will facilitate interactions among researchers. The implementation of various biophilic elements, such as living walls and the use of natural materials aims to reduce work fatigue while simultaneously benefitting health and the environment. The building will also be accessible to community partners by providing ground level space to support community health engagement, research education, and dissemination activities. 

According to the Department of Energy, research laboratories usually use five to 10 times more energy per square foot than an average office building. Columbia’s new building aims to set a precedent for more sustainable practices by using strategies for limiting energy consumption, such as high-efficiency lab fume hoods, demand-based controls for lab equipment, and air-source electric heat pumps. 

The new biomedical building is part of a series of University climate initiatives, such as the 2020 establishment of the Climate School.

Kohn Pederson Fox’s rendering of the new building via CUIMC.