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Cornell, Technion Partner To Build Net-zero Academic Building

Cornell University plans to use geothermal and solar power to build the fourth largest net-zero energy building as the centerpiece for its proposed New York City Tech campus on Roosevelt Island.

The 150,000-square-foot academic building and 10-acre campus will be the home for a partnership between Cornell and the Technion Israel Institute for Technology that will "form a graduate program to focus on bringing products quickly to the market," according to information released by the schools.

Net-zero energy buildings generate at least as much energy as they consume. To achieve net-zero efficiency, the plans include a photovoltaic solar array capable of producing 1.8 megawatts at its daily peak and a four-acre deep-earth geothermal well field. The geothermal field, which will include 400 wells, will be used to heat buildings in the winter, store heat underground during the summer and power a fuel cell to provide energy for non-academic needs. The solar array and geothermal field will each be the largest systems of their kind in New York City.

The academic building, which will be constructed of recycled material, will also take advantage of natural light and demand-controlled ventilation to further reduce energy consumption.

The campus, which will also be home to residences for faculty, staff, and graduate students, will also include public atria and corporate space. Additional sustainable features of the campus will include:

  • Community gardens;
  • Bioswales;
  • Green walls and roofs;
  • A layout designed to prevent buildings from shading one another;
  • Rain gardens; and
  • A small urban forest.

The campus will also be used as a learning resource. "The proposed campus’s faculty and students will be able to incorporate current research into campus design and operation. Interdisciplinary teams of architects, engineers, computer scientists, builders and urban planners will gather information and integrate the updated technology," according to information released by Cornell.

"This proposed campus goes beyond buildings and reduced energy use--it's a living laboratory that brilliantly anticipates and integrates forward-thinking design and building technologies," says Cornell’s Dean of Architecture, Art, and Planning Kent Kleinman. "Forget the cliché 'game-changer,' this New York City campus is more than that. It is the ideal plan for creating an educational environment to train future engineers and designers in the science of sustainability for decades to come. And it will make New York City home to one of the nation's premier green buildings."

Partners in the campus's design include:

To learn more about sustainability efforts at Cornell University, visit

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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