The New School in New York City has always been seen as a progressive institution, but it’s also a trailblazer for sustainability on campus.
“Our definition of sustainability goes beyond simple ‘eco-friendliness,” Molly Craft Johnson, The New School’s University Sustainability Associate, told VICE Impact. “Sustainability is not only a matter of reducing waste and carbon emissions but also about re-thinking and restructuring our social and political systems to create justice and equity at the same time that we strive to be conscientious about our impacts on the planet.”
The University Center (UC), located at Fifth Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan, is the school’s campus hub, and the most concrete example of the school’s continued commitment to the environment. The building is certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), making it one of the greenest academic buildings in the country. Cornell’s sustainable campus initiatives require that all new Ithaca construction carry the minimum LEED Silver certification.
Representing 25 percent of the university’s total square footage, the 16-story building houses classes, a library-research center, auditoriums, cafe, cafeteria, and a 600-bed student residence hall. On the fifth floor of the UC is The Baldwin Rivera Boggs Social Justice Hub which serves as a community organizing space, which the school sees as a necessary step to build sustainability, not to mention having an elevated space devoted to organizing around social causes supports involvement on campus.
The urban setting of the university means that it lacks a quad, or communal outdoor area typical to other more traditional university campuses. According to Erik Eibert, Assistant Director of Sustainable Initiatives, “A large grassy quad is a defining feature of a lot of colleges and universities. The New School doesn’t have this at all. The architects wanted to create this inside the building. They did this by using ‘community stairs.’ They are wide and invite people to use them as opposed to other stairwells that are only utilized if an elevator is broken. They weave through common and open spaces, and you are more likely to see people if you take the stairs.” Increased stair usage encourages a healthier lifestyle, creates opportunities for students to interact, and reduces stress on elevators (building operations was able to remove 2 elevators from the UC because of the use of stairs).