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Gary C. Comer Geochemistry Building, Columbia University

with Payette

For Columbia University’s first LEED building, Atelier Ten carefully integrated the building’s daylight scheme into its architecture to optimize available environmental opportunities, while minimizing energy use for electric light.

To create a lively, warm, and welcoming central hub of activity, a key design challenge was to provide architectural lighting that integrates with the generous interior daylighting while ensuring accessibility to the luminaires in the two central atria. While the architect planned for carefully tuned daylight levels to provide most of the required ambient light for the lounge and reference areas on the ground floor, Atelier Ten designed supplementary lighting to highlight displays and reading planes with minimum distraction and energy use.

The accent lighting is concealed within an architectural slot along the vertical face of the long walls in the atria and is accessible for simple re-lamping. Long-life, low wattage ceramic metal halide fixtures for everyday use were mixed with halogens for emergency-only operation. Adjacent corridors and meeting spaces were illuminated indirectly with linear sources, providing large planes of illumination to balance the contrast created by the sun and daylight patterns entering the clerestory. Clerestory apertures were designed to allow natural sun patterns to play along the large end walls as the visual accent feature for the spaces.