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New School goes to top of class as expansion project powers on

10:19 am, March 22, 2012

By Sarah Trefethen

The University Center will feature some of the most advanced environmental sustainability systems in the city.

While Columbia and New York University fight out the details of their respective expansion plans, their diminutive East Village cousin, The New School, is well on its way to a 16 percent increase in its academic and residential space.

The four-year college broke ground in December 2010 on its University Center, a 16-story mixed use residential and academic building scheduled to open in the fall of 2013 on Fifth Avenue between 13th and 14th streets.

Work by Tishman Construction is on schedule, according to the university, and when completed, the building will feature some of the most advanced environmental sustainability and efficiency systems in the city.

The building will be equipped with not only state-of-the-art lighting and metering systems, but also its own mini power and sewage treatment facilities.

A 265-kilowatt cogeneration plant will use natural gas to generate 20 percent of the building’s electricity on site with more than twice the efficiency of remotely generated power, according to Gwen Kilvert, assistant director for sustainability and energy management. The extra heat generated by the plant will be used for hot water.

The school is also installing a black water system that will reduce the amount of city water that goes into the building by 74 percent, according to Kilvert.

“It’s a total biological system, with multiple tanks in the basement. It will take in some rainwater, but also everything from laundry to showers and toilets,” Kilvert said.

The water, treated to the point of being technically drinkable, will then be re-used in the laundry, toilets, and to water the building’s green roof. The system will reduce the building’s sewage output by 89 percent, Kilvert said – New School’s contribution to reducing the strain on the city’s overflowing sewage system, which dumps raw waste into the harbor whenever there’s a heavy rain.

“A great context for all of these systems is that they all really address specific local environmental issues,” she said.

The design feature Kilvert is most proud of, however, is the fine-grained metering system that will allow building operators to constantly seek out opportunities for greater efficiency even after construction is complete.

Carbon dioxide sensors will estimate the occupancy of each room and adjust ventilation accordingly, and electricity used will by measured not just by floor, but by how the electricity is used, be it wall sockets, fans or lights.

“To our knowledge, no other building has come this far in an advanced metering plan,” Kilvert said.

When finished, the 365,000 s/f building will include new academic space, an auditorium for public programs, a central university library, and a 608-bed dormitory.

The building marks the school’s transition away from its roots as an institution that catered primarily to part-time students, to a majority of students who are full-time degree-seekers, according to the university.

Designers also hope the centralized building will encourage students and faculty to collaborate across the school’s varied academic programs.

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