AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

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Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life

This photo shows the southeast facade at night, with the sunshades visible.
Photo credit: Paul Crosby


  • Location: New Orleans, LA
  • Building type(s): Assembly, Other, Higher education
  • 33% new construction, 67% renovation
  • 151,000 ft2 (14,000 m2)
  • Project scope: a single building
  • Urban setting
  • Completed January 2007

Tulane University's new university center embodies the environmental goals not only of its designers, but also of the students, faculty, and administrators at the school. The new center is built on the same site as the old university center, which was stripped to its concrete structure, expanded by 33%, and redesigned with a variety of environmental systems.

The design process for the building began in 1998, when the university received a donation from the Bernick and Lavin family. After a groundbreaking in 2003, construction was stalled by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when the site was covered in two feet of water. Nevertheless, the project was completed in January 2007 at a cost of just $189 per square foot. The new university center serves not only as a hub for the campus community, but also as a model of environmentally friendly design for the city.

This project was chosen as an AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Project for 2008. It was submitted by Vincent James Associates Architects in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Additional project team members are listed on the "Process" screen.

Environmental Aspects

Unlike the old university center, which was mechanically cooled year-round, the new building was designed to be passively cooled for five months out of the year. The project team looked to the local vernacular for regionally appropriate, passive strategies. Inspired by traditional New Orleans design solutions, the project encourages social mixing and combines daylighting with shading and ventilation. Balconies, canopies, shading systems, and courtyards create layered spaces while permitting variable exchanges of air, light, and activities.

These passive strategies were supplemented with innovative active systems, including extensive radiant cooled surfaces, customized ventilation systems, and systems for creating variable shade depending on needs.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned and occupied by Tulane University, Corporation, nonprofit
  • Typically occupied by 110 people, 40 hours per person per week; and 7,000 visitors per week, 1 hour per visitor per week


Integrated team, Green framework, Simulation, Green specifications, Stormwater management, Efficient fixtures and appliances, Massing and orientation, Insulation levels, Glazing, HVAC, Lighting control and daylight harvesting, Efficient lighting, Adaptable design, Durability, Salvaged materials, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting, Natural ventilation, Ventilation effectiveness, Thermal comfort

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Last updated: 4/22/2008

Our thanks to the ENERGY STAR program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and to the U.S. Department of Energy, and to BuildingGreen, Inc. for hosting the submission and judging forms.

For more information about the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects, contact AIA/COTE. For help on how to use this Web site, contact .

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