Columbia University Begins Construction On New York City’s First All-Electric Biomedical Research Building

New building combines state-of-the-art medical research with a vision for a more sustainable future for science

Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) will begin construction on New York City’s first all-electric university research building in May. The new biomedical research building in Washington Heights is designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) and will house eight stories of laboratories and research facilities, collaboration corners, living walls, and community engagement spaces.

The new biomedical research building will become the center of Columbia’s efforts to gain new understanding of diseases and develop next-generation treatments for some of the most significant threats to human health, including neurodegenerative disease, autoimmune disease, metabolic disorders, heart disease, and cancer.

This will be the first university-owned research building in New York City that does not rely on fossil fuels and fully incorporates sustainability goals into all aspects of its design and operations. The new building will use significantly less energy than similar buildings of its kind and is expected to perform 30% more efficiently than the ASHRAE 90.1 2010 standard, an energy efficiency benchmark for commercial buildings in the United States.

Rendering of Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S)’s new biomedical research building

Rendering of Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons’ new biomedical research building (Credit: Kohn Pedersen Fox)

“We are so proud to be laying the groundwork for this innovative new research building at Columbia. To create a space that will advance biomedical science, bring us closer to our local community, and help our medical center reduce its carbon footprint all in one is truly remarkable,” says Katrina Armstrong, MD, dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and executive vice president for Health and Biomedical Sciences, Columbia University. “Our purpose as a university is to drive discovery, educate next-generation leaders, and create inclusive partnerships with our community. This new space will offer the best environment for our people to do all three.”

Credit: Kohn Pedersen Fox 

The building’s laboratory floors will house 32 principal investigators and their teams of research technicians, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students. The building will feature unique collaboration corners between research spaces that will help facilitate spontaneous interactions and idea-sharing among scientists. Biophilic elements such as green walls of living plants and the extensive use of natural, renewable materials will help reduce work fatigue and provide health and environmental benefits. The new building is accessible to community partners, providing ground level space to support community health engagement and research education and dissemination activities.

Research laboratories typically consume five to 10 times more energy per square foot than an average office building, according to the Department of Energy. At a time when scientists are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of their research, Columbia’s new biomedical research building will set a leading example of a more sustainable future for science. To limit energy consumption, research spaces will incorporate many sustainable design strategies including high-efficiency lab fume hoods, demand-based controls for lab equipment, and air-source electric heat pumps.

The new biomedical building will outperform emission limits set by New York City’s Local Law 97 and help advance Columbia University’s Plan 2030 climate goal of achieving campus-wide net-zero emissions by 2050.

Columbia’s new biomedical research building is the latest in a series of climate initiatives by Columbia University, which includes the establishment of the Climate School in 2020 and launch of a global program to incorporate climate change into medical education.