State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Sustainable Designs: COOKFOX Architects

By: Deborah Sachare


COOKFOX has a long history of sustainable design. One of the most iconic buildings that the firm has constructed is the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park. This design hold the distinction of being the very first LEED Platinum Certified Commercial Skyscraper and has won a number of awards, including New York Construction Magazine’s Best Green Project (2008) and the Grand Prize winner of Buildings and Project Innovations Awards – Greener Facilities (2009). The 2.2 million-square foot project reaches up to 55 floors and yet remains true to sustainability through material efficiency, water conservation and energy conservation. COOKFOX strives to practice sustainable architecture using a one-word mantra: biophilia.

“Biophilia,” Rick Cook explained to Sustainable Development students, “is people’s need for connection to the natural environment.” Mr. Cook, a partner at COOKFOX Architects, spoke to undergraduate and graduate students on the importance that biophilia plays in the construction of a green building. For example, consider natural daylight vs. artificial light. Studies have shown an overall preference for natural daylight working conditions. Mr. Cook noted that there was a 16% reported improvement in children’s test scores in daylit vs. non-daylit conditions. One Bryant Park uses floor-to-ceiling windows in combination with automatic light dimmers so that office members are able to work under naturally lit conditions. Not to mention, these windows provide unbelievable views of Manhattan! By taking advantage of natural light, One Bryant Park conserves 25% of their lighting energy through methods such as daylight dimming.

Sustainable architecture and design was just one of many topics covered by the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development’s Speaker Series last semester. To see a full list of our past speakers, please visit the events section of our website. A list of upcoming speakers for the Fall 2014 semester will be posted in late summer.

Columbia’s Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development is an interdisciplinary program that addresses sustainable development through an understanding of the interaction between natural and social systems, offered through the Earth Institute in partnership with Columbia College and the School of General Studies. Participating departments and schools of the Sustainable Development major and special concentration include the Department of Earth and Environmental Biology; the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering; the School of International and Public Affairs and the Mailman School of Public Health.

To learn more about the major and special concentration in Sustainable Development, please visit our website or contact Jessica Sotomayor, Program Manager, at

Deborah Sachare is an intern for the Office of Academic and Research Programs at the Earth Institute. She is a student at Barnard College and is graduating in 2014 with a degree in Environmental Policy.

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