True Green Cities / How To Save The World With Design

The New School Auditorium, designed by Joseph Urban, hosted Van Jones on February 9th.

The New School Auditorium, designed by Joseph Urban, hosted Van Jones on February 9th.

The construction and operation of buildings accounts for almost 50% of the United States greenhouse gas emissions.  The US has only 5% of the world’s population yet we contribute almost 25% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and 25% of the world’s prisoners, neither of which are statistics to be proud about.  The construction economy and market has been transformed significantly in the past 15 years – through the efforts of so many around the world.  But our great hopes will continue to remain stymied until our research can meet our aspirations.

The FIT Sustainable Interior Environments program which I chair, is a rare design program that focuses on research in design.  We are in our fourth year, have graduated two classes and are starting to amass a significant body of important research in topics as diverse as “The Role of Delight in Furniture Longevity,” “Fire Retardants in Commercial Furnishings,” and “Healing By Design.”  This year’s second year students have equally diverse thesis topics including: biophilic design in urban hotels, guidelines for plantings in office Buildings, an evaluation of the use of PVC in Pre-K classrooms, the urban and sociocultural aspects of green roofs and guidelines for water conservation in existing NYC office towers.

The program is a two year Masters of Art with a curriculum that develops proficiency in research methods, theories, and progressive practices applicable to building environmentally responsible environments. We are creating a community of professionals prepared to transform the environments in which we live, work, learn, and play.

Using New York City as a Laboratory

Students and faculty from the FIT Sustainable Interior Environments program attended the Van Jones lecture at the New School.

Students and faculty from the FIT Sustainable Interior Environments program attended the Van Jones lecture at the New School.

One of the many great things about a New York City based sustainability program is the ability to use the amazing architecture and culture as our laboratory.  Most of the thesis research has focused on urban environments and the added benefit of lectures and symposia almost every week by the leaders of the field adds to the program.  We took both classes of students to see Van Jones on February 9th at the New School’s glorious auditorium designed by one of my favorite architects Joseph Urban.  Van Jones, the President of Dream Corps Unlimited spoke on Rebuilding the Dream: Framing Civil Rights for the 21st Century.”  He is also the author of  “The Green Collar Economy,” which is one of the required books in our second semester graduate seminar.  One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Mr. Jones (a lawyer by training) is that he makes social justice issues very understandable.  Some of the highlights of this talk included:

Last year was a great year to identify problems. This year needs to be the year to identify solutions.We have to close prison doors, and open doors of opportunity into a new green economy through a left/ right alliance.  This talk focused on the problems with our prisons and he noted that more black people are in prison for nonviolent offenses now than were ever slaves.  While his earlier book encouraged the transitioning of our labor force to “green collar jobs” primarily retrofitting existing and historic buildings, this new focus of his encourages the use of our labor force for technology. The economy needs to embrace the green fields from all vantage points and identifying and creating opportunities to achieve true racial and economic justice with a green economy. 

Our students (and faculty) were thrilled to be part of this dialogue.  We are accepting applications for the program through March 15th and would love to welcome you if you’d like to change the world through your design research.

And if you’d like to “subscribe” or follow my blog, True Green Cities, please sign up through the “Subscribe” button at the bottom left of this page. You’ll receive a daily recap when new blogs are posted. Or Sign up for the Feed.

True Green Cities / More On Historic Preservation Equals Sustainability

The Belvedere Castle used green materials for its rehabilitation in 1996 long before LEED was even created.

The Belvedere Castle used green materials for its rehabilitation in 1996 long before LEED was even created.  Photo Credit: Jeffrey Kilmer.

The Urban Green Council, the USGBC chapter of New York City, invited me to speak about historic preservation and sustainability on Thursday, January 22nd at 6:30 in TriBeCa. They also asked me some questions.  Here is part two of that Q & A.

Urban Green Council: Which project you’ve worked on to date would you describe as the absolute hardest? The one you are most proud of?  –

I would say the project I am most proud of is the restoration and rehabilitation of the Belvedere Castle in Central Park. Although it was completed almost 20 years ago now, it has held up well.  The project involved the restoration and adaptive use of this National Historic Landmark complex designed in 1869 by Frederick Law Olmsted & Calvert Vaux as a folly overlooking Manhattan’s original reservoir.  The Castle was reinvented as a children’s discovery center and included complex technological preservation approaches due to the location of the building on a Manhattan schist outcropping overlooking a pond and the Great Lawn.  

 

The Northwest Pavilion at the Belvedere Castle was restored with sustainably harvested wood and painted with low VOC paints in 1995, long before this was normal practice.  Photo Credit:  Jeffrey Kilmer

The Northwest Pavilion at the Belvedere Castle was restored with sustainably harvested wood and painted with low VOC paints in 1995, long before this was normal practice. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Kilmer

As the principal-in-charge at my previous firm Campagna & Russo Architects, I was the architect for the restoration and adaptive use of the site, implementing early sustainability approaches such as the use of low-VOC paints and coatings and natural ventilation. The project involved complete repointing, repair of spalled and cracked Manhattan schist and granite, cleaning and repair of interior slate floors and most significantly the design of new casement windows and doors in steel with operable wrought iron security grilles. The design intent of the new windows was to install durable and safe windows which would recede into the deep wall openings, harkening back to the original appearance of the open-air folly.  Its successful reuse reactivated a key area of Central Park and remains one of the most highly used areas there.  Every day I worked on this project I was so proud and humbled.

See more of the Q & A on the Urban Green Council webpage.

And if you’d like to “subscribe” or follow my blog, True Green Cities, please sign up through the “Subscribe” button at the bottom left of this page. You’ll receive a daily recap when new blogs are posted. Or Sign up for the Feed.

 

True Green Cities / Historic Preservation Equals Sustainability

The Lee H.Nelson Hall in Natchitoches, LA , the headquarters of NCPTT, is the focus of a "greening plan" showing how a historic building can go green.

The Lee H.Nelson Hall in Natchitoches, LA , the headquarters of NCPTT, is the focus of a “greening plan” showing how a historic building can go green.

The Urban Green Council, the USGBC chapter of New York City, invited me to speak about historic preservation and sustainability on Thursday, January 22nd at 6:30 in TriBeCa. They also asked me some questions.  Here is part one of that Q & A.

How does sustainability in historic buildings differ from sustainability in some of the older, non-historic buildings around New York? How would you describe the unique challenges? Unique opportunities?    

The construction and operation of buildings accounts for almost 50% of the United States greenhouse gas emissions. But reusing and retrofitting our existing buildings can reduce these emissions dramatically. From the simple action of preparing a National Register nomination, to developing a regulatory review mitigation plan, to preparing a sustainability master plan, to designing a LEED certified rehabilitation – these are all green building practices because they help keep what’s here and in doing so, avoid new impacts.

In many respects, historic preservation methodologies are just sound, common-sense approaches to protecting the resources, culture and heritage of our planet and that is inherently sustainable development. And this methodology can be used on a National Historic Landmark or a contemporary shopping mall. There are many ways to make your building or site greener, through green housekeeping recommendations or capital improvements. Why choose to be more environmentally conscious? Because not only is it good for the planet, it is sound business practice. When you improve your efficiency and resource use, you improve your bottom line by providing more funding for your core missions and that’s just good for everyone.

To read the rest of the post, please click here.

And if you’d like to “subscribe” or follow my blog, True Green Cities, please sign up through the “Subscribe” button at the bottom left of this page. You’ll receive a daily recap when new blogs are posted. Or Sign up for the Feed.

© Copyright Barbara Campagna – True Green Cities - 2011-2013