- The first phase of the $2 billion, 12-acre Cornell Tech academic campus on New York City's Roosevelt Island opened this week, The New York Times reported.
- A partnership between Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the project was borne from a competition among universities to build a top-tier applied-sciences center for graduate-level studies.
- Highly sustainable design is a unifying feature of the campus. The first building completed on-site, the Bloomberg Center, is vying to be the country’s largest net-zero energy building by generating all of its power on site.
More teams are taking on the challenge of designing buildings to use less energy than they historically have. In the case of the Bloomberg Center, the four-story, 160,000-square-foot project uses features like solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, chilled-beam systems and rainwater harvesting to ensure it meets the goal of creating enough energy to offset its consumption.
Energy modeling plays a significant role in determining what features are needed, and how effective they'll be. Yet few architecture and engineering forms are incorporating the technique into building design and construction. And although it's growing in use, according to a survey last year by the American Institute of Architects, just 13% of architecture firms used the technology for billable work in 2015. Larger firms were far more likely to use it, however, indicating that the software's cost as well as project size requirements could be limiting uptake among smaller practices.
Municipal-level effort to raise the standard for green building locally could change that. For example, this week New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced legislation that would charge owners of buildings over 25,000 square feet up to $2 per square foot if they fail to meet the city’s carbon reduction goals by 2030. Critics of the plan are concerned that the costs required to implement energy-efficiency upgrades in some buildings for compliance could push landlords to raise rents there and further reduce the city's stock of affordably-priced housing.
De Blasio's move comes amid general pushback to the Trump administration's decision to exit the Paris Climate accord. That agreement, which was signed by 195 countries in 2015, would have required the U.S. to reduce its carbon emissions by 28% through 2025 and by 80% through 2050, based on 2005 levels.
In response, city, state and business leaders signed on to the America's Pledge, an independent initiative to maintain the objectives set through the Paris climate accords. The Rocky Mountain Institute and the World Resources Institute will analyze the data and track how well those entities align with the original agreement's goals.