Close Look at Columbia’s Manhattanville Public Spaces, and Its Clean Construction Practices

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012
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(Images: James Corner Field Operations)

Thanks to state of the art green building technologies and a proactive clean construction plan, Columbia University’s 17-acre Manhattanville campus in West Harlem is set to become New York City’s first LEED-Platinum certified neighborhood plan. Columbia is successfully mitigating the environmental effects of the 6.8 million square feet of new construction that is currently underway on the former industrial site between 129th and 133rd Streets, Broadway and 12th Avenue, just north of the main Morningside Heights campus, by teaming up with the Environmental Defense Fund and carefully limiting the noise, dust, and soot that emanates from the site. The university has also released new renderings, showing the landscape and public spaces designed by James Corner Field Operations. 

The plan incorporates academic and research space, underground parking, civic and cultural facilities, as well as commercial space and 94,00 square feet of open space, including a one-acre public square. This new urban campus, which will be built over the next 25 years, represents a distinct departure from the insular walled-in model of Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus, as the University plans to create pedestrian friendly landscapes, widen sidewalks, convey transparency and openness with glass faced ground floors, and provide opportunities for local small businesses and entrepreneurs by leasing out storefronts on the new buildings.

While the University has demolished 33 buildings in the area, as much as 90 percent of the materials have been saved or recycled. All diesel construction equipment, running on ultra-low sulfur fuel, is equipped with particulate filters which release neither soot nor smell, and electric power is used whenever possible. To help create a dust free construction site, all construction vehicles have their wheels and undercarriages washed down twice before they leave the site, and the water use is recycled for future washes. A composite wall of Jersey barriers, plywood fencing, and noise blankets surrounds the entire operation. “Construction can either be an environmental nuisance to people,” said Philip Pitrruzello, Vice President of Columbia’s Manhattanville Construction, in a statement, “or construction can work with a community to help make livable cities.”

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