New York’s City’s Cooper Union, the academic building for the Advancement of Science and Art, serves several purposes beyond scholastic achievements: It is an energy-conserving building integrated into its urban surrounding, connecting students to each other and its location in the East Village. The nine-story, 175,000-square-foot building came with a $111 million price tag, and is considerably larger than the two-story, early-20th-century academic building previously on the site.
The building earned LEED® Platinum certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s ratings based on green design and construction features. Uponor provided radiant heating and cooling to the now infamous building with its perforated aluminum steel panels that reduce the impact of heat radiation during summer months and insulate the interior during winter. Other green features include a full-height atrium, a green roof, a cogeneration plant which provides additional power to the building, and state-of-the-art laboratories made up of recycled, low-emission materials.
Radiant was proposed to reduce airflow requirements in the spaces during the winter and, therefore, reduce total building operating costs. In the end, about two-thirds of the building relies on some form of radiant system. Most of these spaces are heated and cooled with a custom-designed radiant ceiling panel. A more typical radiant floor was installed in locations where ceiling panels were not appropriate. Calculations done early in the design predicted that the building would consume 34 percent less energy than allowed by the 2004 version of ASHRAE 90.1.
"The ceiling system is pretty unique," says project architect Pavel Getov, AIA. Each radiant panel measures nominally 2 feet wide, 5 feet long, and about 2-1/2 inches deep. Loops of hot- and cold-water copper pipes are sandwiched between each panel's exposed perforated aluminum surface, which doubles as the ceiling finish, and an acoustical mat backing that also provides thermal insulation. Taken together, these panels, which are secured with wire clips to a steel grid system, create a very large radiant surface.
For the floor systems, PEX tubes are embedded in a 4-inch polished concrete topping slab, above a 1-inch layer of insulation resting on a structural slab. Assuming that some outside humid air will penetrate the building's entrance in the summer, the designers specified only heating beneath the lobby's polished concrete floor. Tucked further within the interior of the building, other radiant floors provide both heating and cooling.
• Architect: Morphosis Architects, Santa Monica, CA
• Mechanical Engineer: IBE Consulting Engineers
• Total Energy Savings: 34 percent over ASHRAE 90.1
• LEED® Platinum certification
• System: Uponor Radiant Heating and Cooling
• Product: Wirsbo hePEX™ tubing
• Square Feet: 175,000