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Henry Willson / Senior Staff Photographer

Biology professor Julio Fernandez’s lab in the Northwest Corner Building. The building was recognized for its environmentally friendly design and construction practices.

The structure of the Northwest Corner Building is a metallic tower—but inside, it's quite green. The building, which opened in December 2010, has been awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for energy use, lighting, water, and material use. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is the U.S. Green Building Council's program for designating environmentally sustainable building practices. Assistant Vice President of Environmental Stewardship Nilda Mesa called it "extraordinarily challenging" to achieve LEED Gold for a science lab building, because of the demands posed by air handling and the high amounts of energy required for heating and cooling substances in experiments. "This shows New York City and other schools that it can be done," she said in an email. "With each LEED project we apply the lessons we learned to upcoming projects University wide, and Northwest Corner will have an impact on other University buildings in the future." The LEED Gold certification was based on building features like energy-efficient fume hoods and low-flow water fixtures. During construction, over 20 percent of the building materials were extracted, processed, and manufactured regionally. In addition, over 2,000 tons of construction and demolition debris were recycled, and over 20 percent of the building's materials were made of recycled content. "This designation is an affirmation of the innovative thinking and hard work of everyone who contributed to making this building a reality," Joe Ienuso, executive vice president of Columbia University Facilities, said in an email. "It demonstrates the University's commitment to support the frontiers of interdisciplinary teaching and research within environmentally responsible spaces." The 188,000-square-foot building, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect José Rafael Moneo in collaboration with the architects at Madrid's Moneo Brock Studio and New York's Davis Brody Bond, houses laboratories for researchers in biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering, as well as a science library, lecture hall, and the Joe Coffee shop. "For the Northwest Corner building to gain LEED Gold certification, it had to overcome substantial challenges faced by buildings that house laboratories dedicated to scientific research and are located in the Northeast. This award should therefore encourage similar facilities at Columbia and elsewhere to pursue equally green design, construction, and operation," Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin said in a University-wide email. The LEED system was developed in 2000 by the U.S. Green Building Council. The Northwest Corner Building is the fifth Columbia University LEED Certified building and fourth Columbia LEED Gold Certified building, joining Knox Hall, Faculty House, and the Columbia Alumni Center. The University now has received seven LEED certifications: four Gold awards and one Silver award for the design, construction, and operation of entire buildings, and one Gold and one Silver for partial building renovations, Kasdin said. Columbia has LEED-certified buildings on its Morningside, Manhattanville, Medical Center, and Lamont-Doherty campuses.

sustainability Northwest Corner Building LEED certification