Jaros, Baum & Bolles: Jerome L. Green Science Center at Columbia University Manhattanville

Automation, controls; electrical, power; energy, sustainability; fire, life safety; HVAC, mechanical; lighting; plumbing, piping.

By Jaros, Baum & Bolles August 10, 2017

Engineering firm: Jaros, Baum & Bolles

2017 MEP Giants rank: 19

Project: Jerome L. Green Science Center at Columbia University Manhattanville

Address: New York

Building type: Educational facility/research facility/laboratory

Project type: New construction

Engineering services: Automation, controls; electrical, power; energy, sustainability; fire, life safety; HVAC, mechanical; lighting; plumbing, piping

Project timeline: July 2008 to October 2016

MEP/FP budget: $155 million


The Jerome L. Greene Science Center was designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, with Davis Brody Bond as executive architects and Body-Lawson Associates as associate architects. They were instructed with housing the distinguished neuroscience researchers of Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. Like the rest of Columbia’s new Manhattanville campus, the building is intended not only to be a university-wide facility, but also to be a welcoming presence that connects with its surrounding urban neighborhood.

Jaros, Baum & Bolles (JB&B) was contracted to design the entire mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection and IT infrastructure for Columbia University’s Jerome L. Greene Science Center, a 450,000-sq-ft building, with 110,000 sq ft below grade (four floors) and 340,000 sq ft above grade (nine floors and two penthouses). Below-grade spaces include research facilities and mechanical support spaces. Level 2 consists of mechanical support spaces; Levels 3 through 9 consist of laboratories, offices, meeting rooms, support spaces and their aligned engineering systems; and Penthouses 1 and 2 contain mechanical space.

The main challenge of the project was to create an architectural vision for a signature neuroscience research facility. This included portions of a major central energy plant, located on a high water table site in a dense urban area, beside an elevated subway line. It was an immense design challenge requiring complex engineering systems, mitigation of noise and a transparent interface to the community.


The solution was an architectural approach that showcases the intensive MEP systems: a double-skin, all-glass curtain wall system with glass of different compositions used for the inner and outer layers to achieve light and noise reduction as well as thermal requirements. In addition, engineers created a unique mechanical ventilation system that repurposes exhaust air from the laboratory spaces. The exhaust air passes through a cavity between the layers of the glass curtain wall and can be used to cool the cavity in summer and warm it in winter.

Glass of different compositions was used for the inner and outer layers of the facility to achieve light, noise reduction and thermal requirements. Air that is exhausted from the main HVAC system passes through a 16-in. cavity between the layers to help cool the building during the summer and heat it in the winter. Automatic shades located within the curtain wall cavity are controlled by daylighting sensors to reduce unnecessary solar heat gain.

An imperative for a research facility, the double-skin, all-glass curtain wall system was designed to attenuate noise from the adjacent aboveground subway line. The wall system was just one example of how interwoven architecture and engineering were in achieving the vision for this building.

In addition to radiant heating at the perimeter and chilled beams that serve laboratory and office spaces, JB&B used underfloor ducted air distribution for the interactive classroom space at the ground floor. This ended up maximizing usable footprint and window area. Radiant flooring allows users to occupy the space up to the facade glass, as it’s not obstructed by perimeter finned-tube heating. By utilizing chilled beams, air change rates are dramatically reduced—almost one-half as compared to an all-air system.

Special attention was paid to incorporate engineering elements into the architectural design. The roof levels feature “expressed” mechanical elements; accordingly, the laboratory high-plume fans, custom rooftop laboratory air handling units, CEP cooling towers and boiler flues were strategically placed above the building, so as to be showcased by the building facade. The second floor machine room has architectural curtain wall inserts that integrate the architectural and active engineering elements.

A lighting control system was provided for below-grade spaces and above-grade specialty spaces that connect them all to the building’s IT network, allowing remote access for the adjustment of settings and lighting levels. Integration of the lighting control system with the BMS allowed a series of complex scenarios. Lighting in most of the rooms was dimmed or increased on a schedule simulating the sunrise/sunset pattern of a typical day, and colored lighting was used at night to provide useful light for researchers.

Building information modeling (BIM) was a critical tool on this project, and was, in fact, one of the first instances of full-fledged BIM LOD 300 models being used in a lab facility of this size, with a comprehensive process for clash detection and the resolution of all design coordination conflicts.

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Author Bio: Engineering Firm