Operating a Sustainable Skyscraper

Sourced from The New School News

When the New School building at 66 West 12th Street was constructed in the early 20th century, director Alvin Johnson wanted to create a permanent home for the school that would “express [its] ideals.” In the early 21st century, The New School once again erected a building, the University Center, that embodies core values of the university, including the use of design to address the pressing issue of sustainability.

Building operations and infrastructure have the potential to consume large amounts of resources, especially in NYC, given the need to control room temperatures, heat water for washing, and dispose of waste. The LEED-Gold certified University Center was built with clever, often hidden features that increase the building’s efficiency.

The building is managed by the New School Buildings Department, and many of the sustainability features are overseen by Erik Eibert, assistant director for Sustainability Initiatives. According to Eibert, The New School has three broad sustainable-infrastructure commitments: to reduce carbon emissions related to energy-use, to lower water consumption, and to increase the proportion of waste diverted away from landfills. The university has joined New York City initiatives like the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability’s New York City Carbon Challenge — which sets a goal of reducing The New School’s emissions from 2014 levels 40 percent by 2030 – and the Department of Environmental Protection’s Water Challenge to Universities. “These programs are highlights because they’re helping to show leadership and local progress on global environmental issues” says Eibert.

At 375,000 square feet, the University Center is by far the largest building on campus. “It makes up about a quarter of campus square footage,” says Eibert, and “it’s the most important building on campus from an energy standpoint.” The building operates like a minicampus, with classrooms, performance space, studios, dining facilities, a fitness center, and residential living all contained in two basement levels and 16 above-ground floors. In discussing the building’s operations, Eibert commends the design for “pushing the envelope and showcasing what can be accomplished” to limit resource consumption.

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