Energy & Sustainability Initiatives

Columbia University Irving Medical Center is working to reduce emissions and make energy efficiency a priority on our campus. Learn about some of the changes we've implemented and how we're already making a difference.

Building Management System (BMS)

This computer-based system boosts the control and monitoring of energy consumption in CUIMC's buildings. First implemented at the William Black Building in 2011, the BMS is now interconnected with systems in Hammer Health Sciences Center, the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Building, the Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion, the residential Towers, the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center, and the Irving Cancer Research Center. We're working to increase the number of BMS-connected buildings and spaces.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)

LEED is the most widely recognized and respected green building rating system in the world. LEED-certified buildings represent the very best in sustainable building design, construction, operations, and maintenance.

In 2012, CUIMC completed construction of a LEED Commercial Interiors Gold-Rated project on the 11th, 12th, and 13th floors of the Allan Rosenfield Building. Resource-saving features include water-conserving bathroom fixtures and toilets as well as sophisticated lighting control systems that take into account occupancy and the presence of natural light.

Our two recent construction projects—the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center and the Columbia University School of Nursing building—were designated LEED Gold in 2017 and 2018, respectively. For more information on new construction and renovation efforts at CUIMC, see Capital Project Management.

Research Laboratory Initiatives

As a world-class research center, CUIMC has more than 500,000 square feet of research laboratories. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, laboratories use double the energy per square foot as hospitals and triple the energy that other university academic spaces use.

Working with our research community, we are reducing the environmental impact of our laboratories:

  • Research lab ventilation optimization: We're working to pilot technology that could monitor air quality and air contaminants in real time, helping to optimize ventilation rates and saving on energy costs.
  • Efficient low temperature storage: Keeping your ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer at -80°C uses as much energy as a typical single-family home. We're looking at using a new generation of -80°C ULT freezers. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, these freezers use 60 percent of the energy of conventional models.

Oil to Gas Conversion at the Residential Towers

In 2016, we completed a major renovation project, the 100 Haven Ave. boiler plant conversion. The first phase included a comprehensive boiler tune-up and supporting the transition from using No. 6 oil to cleaner No. 2 heating oil. During the second phase, we partnered with ConEdison to extend high-pressure gas service to the boiler plant so it could switch to using even cleaner natural gas as its primary fuel. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, this conversion improved local air quality and allows for greater fuel redundancy and reliability.

LED Lighting

We're upgrading to LED lighting in select locations and during space renovations, and incorporating LED into our campus-wide lighting standards.


With new green buildings at CUIMC, we're adding bicycle parking across campus. You'll see new bike racks at the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center and the new School of Nursing building. See a map of all bike racks.

Water Refill Stations

In an effort to cut plastic bottle waste, we partnered with the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion to install water-bottle fill stations on select floors of 50 Haven Ave., Hammer Health Sciences Center, Mailman School of Public Health, and Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion (see map), and on every floor of the Vagelos Education Center.

Composting Pilot Program in CUIMC Housing

When you compost, you help keep organics out of landfills. The CUIMC Office of Housing Services, in partnership with the New York Department of Sanitation, launched a pilot composting program at the 154 Haven Ave. and 390 Ft. Washington Ave. residences in September 2017.

University-Wide Initiatives

In early 2016, members of our team joined a university-wide Sustainability Strategic Planning Process led by the Office of Environmental Stewardship with guiding input from Earth Institute faculty. We developed strategies to increase sustainability practices and improve efficiency in energy and greenhouse gases, waste, and transportation.

In late 2016, the University announced a set of sustainability principles for all of its campuses. Among them are developing, implementing, and measuring strategic sustainability initiatives and fostering a culture of sustainability. The first formalized sustainability plan is a three-year, operations-focused roadmap to create a more sustainable University.

CUIMC's Sustainability Goals and Strategies

  1. Building energy supply and demand: CUIMC will aim to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. We'll review whether available data can also support aligning this goal with the 2005 baseline, as opposed to our current 2010 baseline.
  2. Transportation: We'll develop protocols and policies to support the measurement and subsequent decrease in greenhouse gases and particulate matter emissions by 2020, supporting the University’s commitment to reach New York City's goal of a 80-percent carbon emissions reduction by 2050.
  3. Waste and materials management: CUIMC will expand waste management efforts, with a goal to aggressively reduce waste and calculate a more comprehensive waste diversion rate. We will work to align with New York City's OneNYC waste-to-landfill goal by 2030.

Learn more about our work and the strategies outlined in the sustainability plan.