Gary C. Comer Geochemistry Building Receives Three Awards for Design

Columbia's Gary C. Comer Geochemistry Building on the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Campus recently received three awards for its design.

The building was named Lab of the Year by R&D Daily and the Scientific Equipment and Furniture Association (SEFA). As stated on R&D's Web site, "Officially completed in late 2007, the building houses extensive lab space, directly supporting R&D that advances our understanding of climate change."

In the May 19, 2009 issue of Building Design & Construction, Payette, the architectural firm behind the Comer Geochemistry Building, announced additional awards. The building received a Merit Award for Excellence in Architecture for a New Building (one of only two projects recognized in this category) by The Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) and the American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education (AIA-CAE). SCUP and the American AIA-CAE also cited the project in the 2009 Excellence in Planning and Excellence in Architecture Awards program.

The building also garnered an Award for Design in the 2009 Sustainable Design Awards, sponsored by the Boston Society of Architects Committee on the Environment and the American Institute of Architects. The biennial award is co-sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Committee on the Environment of the AIA New York Chapter. Its purpose is to recognize projects that systematically integrate several aspects of sustainability and, as a result, make a substantial impact on the environment. Jurors reviewed more than 50 portfolios of projects from around the world. They cited the Comer Building's success in meeting the technical challenges of a complex research program, and also how "the solution settles into the landscape beautifully."

"Honoring the challenge posed directly by the late Gary Comer, founder of the Lands' End Company and a committed supporter of Lamont's climate change research, the building's architects set out to make this a truly sustainable laboratory in spite of its demanding environmental requirements," said Joe Ienuso, executive vice president of Columbia University Facilities. "Payette sought to achieve this in a holistic way, recognizing that sustainability is more than using green materials or green power. Starting with its placement on the campus, sustainability was at the root of the design concept."

The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of Columbia University's Earth Institute, is home to hundreds of research scientists, including a geochemistry staff of over 80. The observatory's researchers investigate the origin, evolution and future of the natural world, including the dynamics of the solid earth, circulation of the oceans and atmosphere, and transport of materials via wind and water. ln recent years, the work of the geochemistry division has been at the forefront of global climate science. For more information on these awards, visit