David Lamb

The 54,000-square-foot Gateway Center culminates from a visionary plan, developed in 2009 by the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry (SUNY-ESF), to achieve carbon neutrality by 2015, well ahead of other institutions nationally. Keeping the bar high, New York’s State University Construction Fund, which paid for the project, required energy-positive performance and LEED Platinum certification. SUNY-ESF administrators, faculty, and students collaborated closely with Boston-based Architerra to transform a barren parking lot on the urban Syracuse, N.Y., campus into a striking symbol of environmental stewardship and climate action leadership.

The Gateway Center’s distinctive bioclimatic form overcomes a tight building site and mitigates undesirable solar heat gain from a west-facing exposure. Metal-clad “flipper walls” (canted fixed walls which nevertheless appear to be moveable) shade low-sun glare and heat while favoring south-facing windows that maximize daylight and campus views. All concourse windows open and close automatically thanks to daylight sensors and motorized controls. Ninety percent of Gateway Center’s occupied spaces have generous daylight; 97 percent have campus views. All of the staff desks are within 15 feet of an operable window. 

Timber-supported, cantilevered canopies fronting the north and south elevations provide solar shading and create sheltered entrances that incorporate glass wind screens. The three-story campus center houses a conference facility, café, bookstore, and admissions and outreach offices unified by a sweeping concourse that supports students, faculty, and public gatherings. 

The green centerpiece, however, is a lower-level, 7,000-square-foot combined heat-and-power plant fueled by waste wood pellets. The century-old SUNY-ESF, the nation’s oldest college dedicated solely to the study of the environment, was previously heated entirely by fossil fuel–generated steam. The new model plant, which is also connected to four adjacent academic buildings, provides 60 percent of the campus’s annual heating needs and 20 percent of its annual power usage, reducing energy costs by 64 percent and carbon emissions by 25 percent. Plant components are color-coded and labeled to serve as a hands-on teaching tool and laboratory for SUNY-ESF’s innovative new energy-management program. The biomass system within the combined heat-and-power plant includes a state-of-the-art electrostatic precipitator that eliminates combustion particulates and ensures the air quality of chimney emissions. Biomass fuel is produced from regional post-industrial waste and regenerated on SUNY-ESF’s 25,000 forested acres. Waste ash is collected in 50-gallon drums and recycled as soil nutrients on a nearby SUNY-ESF forest property.

Another highlight is the intensive, 10,000-square-foot green roof designed to study environmentally sensitive Alvar Grasslands and Great Lakes Dune plant communities. Measurement devices enable faculty and students to track plant colonization, insect density, soil moisture, temperature, and humidity.

The green roof contributes to a broader stormwater management program. Its 6-to-24-inch planting depths are much deeper than conventional green roofs (typically 4 to 6 inches deep). Runoff that cannot be absorbed by the roof flows via roof drains to a rain garden south of the building and a 48-inch-deep tree trench along the building’s east sidewalk. Occasional overflow is directed to an underground vortex chamber, which removes sediment before directing the water to the building's south garden. The net result is that 90 percent of the average annual precipitation is captured and treated on site, a far cry from before, when the site had been an impervious parking lot. 

Beyond the environmental metrics, the Gateway Center is a teaching tool. All system components are visible, identifiable, explained, and celebrated. Data-gathering devices are built in. The biomass power-and-heat plant features real-time energy performance monitors. The outreach isn’t just for students. The center features a flexible 500-seat conference facility. All visitors encounter an 80-foot-long display wall in the concourse exhibiting 40 information panels on six topics—Community, Service Learning, Regional Campus, Research, Student Life, and Sustainability . As originally envisioned, SUNY-ESF’s new Gateway Center is a model of sustainability. 

Click here to see all of the 2014 AIA COTE Top Ten Green Projects. Scroll down for more images, along with performance data and project team and materials information. Stay tuned for profiles of this year's winning firms on Ecobuildingpulse.com, along with additional coverage of this year's Top Ten in the Spring issue of ECOBUILDING Review. 

SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry Gateway Center.
David Lamb SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry Gateway Center.

SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry Gateway Center.
David Lamb SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry Gateway Center.

SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry Gateway Center.
David Lamb SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry Gateway Center.

SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry Gateway Center.
David Lamb SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry Gateway Center.

Project completion date:
September 2013
Building gross floor area: 54,000 square feet
Estimated percent of occupants using public transit, cycling, or walking: 90
Daylighting at levels that allow lights to be off during daylight hours: 90
Lighting power density (watts per square foot): 0.84
Percent of views to the outdoors: 97
Percent of spaces within 15 feet of an operable window: 100
Percent reduction of regulated potable water: 32
Potable water used for irrigation: No
Percent of rainwater from maximum anticipated 24-hour, two-year storm event that can be managed on site: 100
Total EUI (kBtu per square foot per year): 40
Net EUI (kBtu per square foot per year): 33
Percent reduction from national median EUI for building type: 58
Third-party rating: LEED Platinum (certification pending)
Total project cost as time of completion (land excluded): $26.5 million

Architect, interior designer, lighting designer, LEED consultant/coordinator:
Architerra, architerra-inc.com
Client: State University Construction Fund, sucf.suny.edu
Owner: SUNY-ESF College of Environmental Science & Forestry, esf.edu
Mechanical/electrical/plumbing/fire protection engineer: vanZelm Heywood & Shadford, vanzelm.com
Structural engineer: Clark Engineering & Surveying, clarkpc.com
Civil engineer: Bryant Associates, bryantpc.com
Geotechnical/environmental engineer: Dente Associates, dente-engineering.com
Construction manager: Turner Construction Co., turnerconstruction.com
General contractor: Murnane Building Contractors, murnanebuilding.com
Landscape architect: Andropogon Associates, andropogon.com
Food service consultant: Ricca Newmark Design, riccanewmark.com
Asbestos and HazMat environmental wastewater engineer: Larsen Engineers, larsenengineers.com
Energy modeler: Atelier Ten, atelierten.com
Specifications: Kalin Associates, kalinassociates.com
Commissioning agent: Genesys Engineering, genesysengineering.net
Air emissions modeler: RSG (Resource Systems Group Inc.), rsginc.com
Code consultant: R.W. Sullivan,rwsullivan.com
Cost estimator: Vermeulens Cost Consultants, vermeulens.com
Site tel-com cable design: ECC Technologies, ecctec.com
AV/acoustic consultant: Shen Milsom & Wilke, smwllc.com
Data provided by AIA and Architerra.