Columbia Plans All-Electric Research Facility in Washington Heights


Columbia University plans to build an all-electric biomedical research building in Washington Heights, which university officials say will be the first of its kind in New York City. 

The planned eight-story, 80,700-square-foot lab and administrative space will be on the corner of West 167th Street and Audubon Avenue. It will be part of Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) and designed to help create a unified academic and research complex by physically connecting Columbia’s School of Nursing and Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion. Construction of the building is expected to be complete by late 2026.

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The building, designed by architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), was funded in part by the New York State Energy and Research Authority, which provides project grants for low-carbon developments in disadvantaged communities. It also was developed to help further Columbia’s goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to the university. 

The building features several clever design elements in keeping with its theme of sustainability, including an exterior facade that reduces solar heat gain and glare, thereby boosting energy efficiency, and collecting 100 percent of stormwater into on-site cisterns. 

“As an all-electric research lab building in a cold climate, the biomedical research building presented a particular challenge given high heating loads brought on by the ventilation requirements of the building’s program,” said Carlos Cerezo Davila, KPF’s director and head of sustainability, in a statement. “This required us to design a building where the architecture and the mechanical systems work together in an integrated, energy-efficient whole, demonstrating that all building types — even the most complex — can be a part of a decarbonized built environment.”

VP&S, founded in 1767, was the first U.S. medical school to award doctor of medicine degrees. The college is at Columbia’s Irving Medical Center at 622 West 168th Street

“Our purpose as a university is to drive discovery, educate next-generation leaders, and create inclusive partnerships with our community,” Irving Medical Center CEO Katrina Armstrong said in a statement. “This new space will offer the best environment for our people to do all three.”

Nick Trombola can be reached at