New York University

Sustainability

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What is a green city? First, it is an ideal, yet to be attained by any urban place in the world but certainly achievable in the twenty-first century.”

— Eugenie L. Birch and Susan M. Wachter

(From Urban Greening and the Green City Ideal)
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Urban Sustainability

At its foundation, NYU 2031 establishes a process for achieving sustainable growth. The plan is built on a core University philosophy that fostering community, protecting resources, and strengthening urban life are the best ways to grow responsibly. This strategy not only encompasses physical expansion but also presents a methodology for evolving sustainably. It provides a way to fulfill the University's overarching objectives, create a new urban landscape that will benefit NYU's community and the city well into the future, introduce predictability and transparency to the University's planning efforts, and improve NYU's environmental impact.

NYU has joined New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's call to reduce the University's carbon emissions by 30 percent, on a per-square-foot basis, by 2017, and successfully achieved that goal in 2011, well ahead of schedule. NYU has also signed on to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and has established a goal of reaching overall carbon neutrality by 2040.

The modern movement for sustainable growth represents a holistic approach to development, and its proponents often refer to the "three Es" of sustainability: equity, economy, and environment. NYU has taken the same approach in its long-term planning. It has detailed the importance that process has played in formulating NYU 2031—an iterative, measured, responsive, and transparent course of action that NYU believes essential for its continued development. The University will proceed with the plan in the same manner.

This means providing appropriate stewardship in the historically significant areas that require it, improving access to open space, and fostering social, economic, and cultural vitality on individual streets and in neighborhoods through good urban planning and design. It also means strengthening NYU’s own community by creating more viable internal spaces for social interaction, which has the added benefit of lessening the University’s impact on the public realm.

The strategy builds on NYU’s strengths as an urban university, deriving the best benefit from the innate attributes that make great cities inherently sustainable. This can be seen in how the plans maximize growth on the two NYU superblocks, making aggressive use of below-ground space and centering academic activities within the University’s core, and in how the plans promote pedestrian uses while growing along transit routes, reinforcing NYU’s identity as a primarily pedestrian landscape.

Additionally, NYU 2031 allows the University to reach its additional square footage goal while continuing to reduce its impact on the environment. Maximizing the use of space and resources is central to the strategy, and it tries to accomplish this in many ways, including adaptive reuse of existing spaces, a commitment to LEED Silver standards for all new construction, and setting important benchmarks, such as carbon neutrality and waste reduction, as the University adheres to city and national program commitments.