Columbia’s plan for Manhattanville receives LEED Platinum certification
The U.S. Green Building Council has awarded Columbia’s Manhattanville plan LEED Platinum status—the highest designation that can be awarded under the program.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the standard benchmark used in architecture and structural engineering to identify excellence in sustainable design practices. The Platinum certification comes in LEED’s Neighborhood Development category, a designation that recognizes environmentally friendly design of entire neighborhoods, rather than specific buildings.
From an urban planning perspective, this is a fairly significant milestone, not only for the University: The Manhattanville campus is the first LEED-ND Platinum certification in New York City and for a university campus nationally.
In a year that saw several setbacks on the construction site, the news is a boost for the 17-acre campus, the first buildings of which are scheduled to open in 2016. LEED-ND takes into account the sustainability of early site planning, and the University has worked hard to promote its green construction techniques, which include a 90 percent reduction in air particulate emissions and a device that washes the wheels of dirty trucks before they grace the streets outside the construction site. Columbia met with consultants from the Environmental Defense Fund as early as 2007 to ensure that the site’s construction would surpass industry standards.
LEED-ND also measures the extent to which the site adheres to the principles of smart growth and New Urbanism, two urban planning movements that emphasize street walkability, access to public spaces and to recreation facilities, and historic resource preservation—all in all, a long way of saying working well with its neighbors. Columbia has often had a testy relationship with West Harlemites—many of whom opposed the campus expansion in the first place and some of whom now are frustrated with the slow distribution of the $76 million in benefits that the University promised in a community benefits agreement.
Still, the Platinum designation has rewarded Columbia’s commitment to green construction and public spaces (in addition to wider sidewalks, between the two Business School buildings will be a block-long park and in the School of the Arts building will be an auditorium, both of which will be open to non-affiliates). A press release also cites the campus’ proximity to mass transit (it’s right below the 1 train stop at 125th Street) as a plus for making commutes for construction workers easier.
Ultimately, though, the certification still comes under the relatively new LEED classification for Neighborhood Development—and not for actual building construction, which will begin this summer. The question now is whether the University can maintain the standard it has set for the next phase of construction.
In a press release, President Bollinger expressed satisfaction with the achievement: “This is a milestone for Columbia not only because we are building a future in our home community in New York, but because we are doing so with a commitment to the best urban planning principles and the highest quality architecture that reflect both the core values of city life and the fundamental need for a more sustainable society.”
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