Building Sustainability into the "Lab of the Year"

Building Sustainability into the "Lab of the Year"

Altanova was responsible for identifing and analyzing sustainable opportunities in the design of a complex geochemistry lab for Columbia University.

Altanova completed an evaluation of electric energy efficiency opportunities specified or being considered for the new Geochemistry Building of Columbia University’s Lamont-Dougherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York.


This 69,289 square foot building, of two main structures connected by a basement, consists of five mass spectrometer labs, one high temperature and pressure lab, seven instrument labs, eight wet chemistry labs, fifty-nine offices, three conference rooms and other support spaces including building infrastructure spaces. It employs a central heating system with condensing boilers, and a central cooling system. Columbia Geochem is the University’s first LEED-certified building (Silver).

The project was implemented under NYSERDA’s New Construction Program. After working on various design options with the design and development team, the Technical Assistance analysis applied the ASHRAE 90.1-2004 baseline. Proposed measures included an efficient lighting plan, upgrade for higher-efficiency T5 fixtures instead of standardT12; occupancy sensors associated with fluorescent lighting, occupancy sensors for fan coil units; staging exhaust fans with VFDs, energy recovery ventilation, high-efficiency air cooled chillers; VFDs on chilled/hot water pumps.


Through the identification of innovative measures such as lighting and ventilation controlled by occupancy sensors, energy recovery ventilation and high-efficiency air-cooled chillers, energy savings were estimated at 16% annually. The building was named “Lab of the Year” by Research and Development Magazine and won awards for excellence in sustainable design and architecture from the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Institute of Architects.

Key Results

16% reduction in energy consumption

"Lab of the Year" awarded by R&D Daily

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