Cornell University’s Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall is a 263,000-square-foot, $113.5 million building and houses the university’s life sciences department. Inside the gleaming seven-story building are a slew of laboratories and research facilities, plus office spaces, conference rooms, and informal areas for faculty and student gatherings, including a cafe. From the outside, one would never know that there are two underground floors of ultra sensitive laboratories covered with a 3 ft thick green roof, which seems more like a lawn. Burring the labs, which need incredibly specialized lighting and low-vibration conditions, eliminates the need to block out the sun or over condition to meet the programmatic needs. And as a bonus, the underground labs are topped with a green lawn planted with spongy, local vegetation and a helpful water retention system.
The building’s exterior is clad in recycled white aluminum and each facade was designed to specifically respond to its orientation and context. Shade elements on the windows minimize glare coming into the spaces. Locally sourced, FSC certified ash wood is used extensively in the interior including the multi-story atrium in the center. Because every lab needs special conditions in which to perform experiments, natural ventilation is not an option to minimize energy usage. To counteract the need for mechanical ventilation, heating and cooling, Richard Meier and the university made sure to include energy efficient systems. As such, the building uses heat recovery, lake source geothermal heating and cooling and optimized mechanical systems that all work to reduce the energy needs by 40%. Daylighting and motion sensors also work to reduce energy use.
Images ©Scott Frances courtesy of Richard Meier & Partners