Higher Education

Cornell Law School

Academic Center and Commons

Ann Beha Architects, now Annum Architects
Ithaca, New York
25,500 GSF
LEED Platinum 2014
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Cornell Law School 01
© David Lamb Photography
Cornell Law School 02
© David Lamb Photography


  • 2014 AIA Southern New York Design Award
  • 2015 SCUP/AIA-CAE Excellence in Architecture Award
  • 2016 Boston Society of Architects Educational Facilities Design Award

A master class in preserving historic resources and repurposing existing buildings to accommodate growth.

Cornell Law School admitted its first students in 1887. Today, the school has a total enrollment of approximately 600, and is recognized as a leader among law schools. Cornell Law School faculty is consistently ranked among the top in the country.

The new Academic Center includes three tiered classrooms, a new Commons area, and café for students and faculty. The Center is accessed by a new lobby for informal gathering and a new staircase. Because the new building is almost completely underground, the roof was utilized as a vegetated green roof, providing thermal benefits and reducing heating and cooling energy usage. Heating and cooling systems utilize the central campus steam plant and chilled water system. The classroom spaces are served by a displacement type cooling system, which supplies mild temperature air into the space at floor level, reducing the overall peak cooling load by stratifying temperature and maintaining comfort in the occupied level, and minimizing air noise to achieve the acoustical performance requirement. Energy performance was optimized with HVAC and automated building control systems. CO2 sensors were installed in teaching areas; when classrooms are occupied fresh air is provided for ventilation and when unoccupied the fresh air supply is reduced. Power systems were extended from the existing electric service and existing emergency generator. The project included a new centralized lighting control system. The LEED Platinum is the highest-performing building on campus with energy saving compared to energy standards an impressive 64%.