The State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science & Forestry (ESF) Gateway Center transforms a barren parking lot into a striking symbol of environmental stewardship and climate action leadership. This three-story campus center totals 54, 000 gross square feet, providing a conference facility, café, bookstore, and admissions and outreach offices unified by a sweeping concourse that supports students, faculty, and public gatherings.
This award-winning design was a response to the client’s mandate to create an extraordinary green building, driving toward campus climate neutrality and modeling exemplary sustainability to foster teaching and research. The design resulted from a close collaboration between the design team and SUNY-ESF administrators, faculty and students. Energy-plus performance and LEED Platinum certification were required by SUNY-ESF and the State University Construction Fund.
Founded in 1911, SUNY-ESF is the nation’s oldest college dedicated solely to the study of the environment, currently serving approximately 2, 250 students (1, 650 undergraduates and 600 graduate students) and one of 64 campuses comprising the SUNY system. The 15-acre urban campus, located in Syracuse, New York, was previously heated entirely by fossil-fuel generated steam purchased from adjacent Syracuse University.
In 2009, SUNY-ESF adopted a visionary plan for achieving carbon neutrality by 2015, well ahead of other institutions nationally. This plan prescribed a centrally located “gateway building” that would house a district energy plant capable of realizing significant carbon reductions and promoting energy independence.
The building occupies a narrow site that slopes nearly 30 feet from east to west. The site is constrained by surrounding roads, academic buildings, and a domed sports arena.
The bioclimatic design overcomes a tight site and west-facing exposure using passive solar design principles. Metal shingles and recycled concrete block are the principal exterior materials. Eight species of FSC-certified wood are used throughout. Featuring an innovative combined heat-and-power plant, intensive green roof, and extensive wildlife displays, the “energy-positive” Gateway Center serves as a pedagogical tool and community resource, supporting on-going teaching and research as well as public education.