MANH November 2009 : Page 61

A Greener Ivy More than a century ago, Columbia University President Seth Low declared, “A university on a hill cannot be hid.” Today, Columbia couldn’t hide if it wanted to.With a decades-long building program in the works, the university is finding ways to turn the ecological tide with innovative new architecture. At the northwest corner of the originalMorningsideHeights campus, architect José RafaelMoneo has designed a LEED-quality science building due to open next year. Across the street at Barnard College, the firmofWeiss/Manfredi is finishing up work on the new student union, theDiana Center, for which they’ve built a 3,600-square-foot “green roof” that will reduce stormrunoff while providing a unique recreational space in the sky. At Columbia’sMailman School ofHealth, visionary theorist Dr.DicksonDespommier has been exploring large-scale urban farming for 15 years. And itmight be coming to a neighborhood near you. “I’ve been shocked at howmany people think this is a good idea,” saysDespommier; recently he’s been fielding calls fromtheWhiteHouse. At least two companies,GothamGreens and BrightFarmSystems (founded by Columbia grad Ted Caplow), are trying to turnDespommier’s ideas into commercial ventures, and Despommier is planning a business of his own. It’s a wild idea, but it seems to be bearing fruit, so to speak. BY DESIGN Above and far left: 41 Cooper Square, NYC’s first green laboratory, and its JUST EAT IT Hydroponic and aeroponic planters may soon fresh produce for NYC without the waste and cost of long-distance transportation. grand staircase. Left: A child in Ghana carrying a SociaLite lantern. Lighting up the World Tere’s long been an activist spirit on New York’s campuses, and today it’s been taking an ecological turn. Madeline Foster, who’s in her second year at Cooper Union’s Albert Nerken School of Engineering, just got back from Ghana, where for six years Cooper students and instructors have been helping to popularize a unique device aimed at developing sustainable communities. “Tere was one woman there whose house didn’t have any windows. When she brought the unit inside, it was the first time she was able to see the interior of her own home,” says Foster. “Te look on her face was great.” Tat smile came courtesy of SociaLite, an efficient, modular lighting system developed by Cooper engineers for use in off-the-grid villages in Africa and beyond. A solar cell, a car battery, a simple lantern and a customizable case (locals have been known to use everything fromgourds to gas cans) are all a villager needs to light up a home or workplace. Most of the kit can be assembled from found parts, and it only requires a brief tutorial from the visiting Cooper students to learn how. Foster believes wide-scale application will give developing communities a leg up in the green race: “By going straight to solar power, they’re skipping other, less efficient phases of electricity.” Closer to home, Cooper made waves this fall with its headline-grabbing academic building from architect Tom Mayne. Somewhat overlooked in the reporting: the building’s eco-friendly features, from a green roof to radiant heating to a stainless steel- mesh skin with remote-control panels that open and close for optimal ventilation. “From the earliest planning stages, green was amajor goal for us,” says Cooper VP for External Affairs Ronni Denes. Cooper set out seeking LEEDSilver, but with all the extra trimmings Mayne added to the project, it’s likely the building could end up with LEED Platinum, the highest grade there is. M November 2009 | | 61 photos: VertiCal farmiNg illustratioN by blake kurasek; 41 Cooper by iwaN baaN; ChilD by toby CumberbatCh

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