Produced by the Department of Media Relations & Publications

Sustainable Design in a New Science Building

November 21, 2008

In this segment, we talk to architect Tony Alfieri of the Perkins and Will architectural firm. He discusses the design elements and sustainability features in the College's new science building, now under construction.

3 Minutes 56 Seconds

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This is Neem Dewji, a student at Lehman College.

In this segment, we talk to architect Tony Alfieri of the Perkins and Will architectural firm. He discusses the design elements and sustainability features in the College's new science building, now under construction. His firm designed this new facility.



The new science building is a blend of teaching labs and research labs. And for us, that was very important because there's a very strong connection between teaching and research. We want to establish a lot of connections and foster collaboration between the undergraduates and the teaching faculty. Between the undergraduate students, the graduate students, provide a welcoming place for some of the high school students who takes classes on campus, and to provide a welcoming amenity to their surrounding community. So, a place that all these different groups can come together and meet one another and exchange ideas.

The new building will form an enclosed courtyard. The other piece that will enclose that courtyard is Gillet, and then Phase Two will complete the courtyard. And so, the plan is to create a campus within a campus, or an academic village dedicated to the sciences, and Phase One will be the first new piece of that.


It will consist of two wings, one with teaching labs for undergraduate courses in biology and chemistry, and then another wing for research space around mostly plant scientists. So, biologists, chemists, and environmental scientists, all working with different issues relative to plant science. Which is, you'll remember is a strength of the Lehman College Graduate Program here.

The new science building was designed with what we'd like to describe as an integrated approach to sustainable design. And by that, we mean, we-- we don't just layer on surface features, we actually knit sustainability into the core thinking of the building.

Now, what I mean by that is, for example, we are gathering storm water on the roof, and then in retention tanks in the courtyard, that water will then be cleaned and reused within the building for maintenance reasons, and then that effluent will again be gathered and cleaned once it leaves the building.


The-- system of cleaning is through a -- what we call a constructive wetland, or planted area with grassland plants which have microbes in their root systems that clean the water. Students and faculty will be able to test the water at different points in the process, plants at different points in the process. So, they can really understand the connection between the health of the water, the health of the plants, the health of the soil.

It'll be a teaching tool, it'll be a research tool, it'll be a building system, so it'll be all about plumbing and water, but it'll also be about education and science. In terms of the-- the-- the physical characteristics of the building, we-- we're using what was called a high- performance glazing system. We're using glass that-- lets in sunlight but keeps out heat and controls the in-- interior environment of the building.

We're also using an interesting sort of -- an interesting kind of -- acrylic glazing on the greenhouse that will maximize the amount of natural light we get, and act as, what we call, a heat blanket. So it will retain energy that's usually lost in a greenhouse. So we're using a lot of specific building materials that are all designed to increase the energy performance and efficiency of the building.


Then, within the site landscape, you've mentioned the-- the courtyard has an extensive amount of planting in it. And the interesting thing about that is that it's all self-maintainable, it's-- it's a closed system, so to speak. So it will minimize the amount of maintenance. And I described, those plants will clean the water that comes out of the building and is collected from the storm water. So they're attractive, but they're also highly functional.



For information on other sustainability projects at Lehman, visit This is a production of the Lehman College Media Relations Office.