Radiant Cooling Integral to The Cooper Union’s LEED Rating

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art has been a force for change and critical thinking in education, art, engineering and architecture for 150 years.

As a cornerstone of the East Village for a century and a half, the college provides every accepted student with a full-tuition scholarship. Its unwavering commitment to academic rigor and innovation can be seen in its outstanding, nationally ranked programs, top-notch faculty and, beginning this fall, its new, state-of-the-art academic building at 41 Cooper Square.

The academic building serves several purposes beyond scholastic achievements: It is an energy-conserving building integrated into its urban surrounding, connecting students to each other and its location in the East Village. The nine-story, 175,000-square-foot building came with a $111 million price tag and is considerably larger than the two-story, early-20th-century academic building previously on the site.


LEED Platinum Certified


The building earned LEED Platinum certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s ratings based on green design and construction features. Radiant heating and cooling were used in the now infamous building with its perforated aluminium steel panels that reduce the impact of heat radiation during summer months and insulate the interior during winter.

Radiant Cooling Integral to The Cooper Union’s LEED Rating

The engineering lab is significantly more efficient than other, similarly sized buildings and boasts a few advanced environmentally friendly features:

  • Innovative radiant heating and cooling technology, the first used in the U.S, to conserve energy and increase efficiency.
  • An outer layer of semitransparent mesh screen to cool the building during the summer and warm it in the winter by controlling daylight, energy use, and natural ventilation.
  • Carbon dioxide detectors throughout the building to automatically dim power and ventilation when rooms are unoccupied — saving on energy and costs.
  • A cogeneration system to produce power for the new building, reducing the need to tap into the outside electrical grid.
  • A green roof covered by a layer of low-maintenance plantings, to reduce city “heat island” effects, as well as stormwater runoff, noise, summer air conditioning cost and winter heat demand.
  • Low-flow plumbing devices, which, along with the green roof, will save more than 600,000 gallons of water annually.

Radiant Panels & Loops


A radiant heating and cooling solution was proposed to reduce airflow requirements in the spaces during the winter and, therefore, reduce total building operating costs. In the end, about two-thirds of the building relies on some form of radiant cooling and heating solution. Most of these spaces are heated and cooled with custom-designed radiant ceiling panels. A more typical radiant floor was installed in locations where ceiling panels were not appropriate. Calculations done early in the design predicted that the building would consume 34 percent less energy than allowed by the 2004 version of ASHRAE 90.1.

Radiant Cooling Integral to The Cooper Union’s LEED Rating

“The ceiling system is pretty unique,” says project architect Pavel Getov, AIA. Each radiant panel measures nominally 2 feet wide, 5 feet long, and about 2-1/2 inches deep. Loops of hot and cold water copper pipes are sandwiched between each panel’s exposed perforated aluminium surface, which doubles as the ceiling finish, and an acoustical mat backing that also provides thermal insulation. Taken together, these panels, which are secured with wire clips to a steel grid system, create a very large radiant surface.

For the floor systems, PEX tubes were embedded in a 4-inch polished concrete topping slab, above a 1-inch layer of insulation resting on a structural slab. Assuming that some outside humid air will penetrate the building’s entrance in the summer, the designers specified only heating beneath the lobby’s polished concrete floor. Tucked further within the interior of the building, other radiant floors provide both heating and cooling.

radiant panel

The Cooper Union building for the Advancement of Science and Arts is a spectacular example of how green building solutions can enhance a building’s design, reduce costs and improve the indoor environment for its occupants.



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