Workshop Explores Career Development in Context of Sustainable Development

Speakers from the field of sustainable building visited Wagner on March 28 to participate in a workshop discussion entitled “Green Building, LEED and Planning.”

The event, co-sponsored by Wagner’s Urban Planning Student Association and the American Planning Association (APA) Student Chapter,  drew students from the urban planning and nonprofit management programs at Wagner to engage with speakers Chris Mahase, Sustainability Director of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD); Brian Wennersten, Associate Director of Turner & Townsend Ferzan Robbins; and Meagan Rossi, Student Regional Chair of the NYC Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

The second in a series, the workshop mixed career development advice and discussion about the direction of future sustainable buildings. Increasing education on the importance and benefits of sustainability, and concerns about energy prices and large carbon footprints, have driven the demand for professionals who have a deep understanding of sustainable buildings and communities. Certifications such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Accredited Professionals (AP) and Green Associate (GA), have become an important standard for planners, architects, and professionals interested in sustainable buildings, housing, neighborhood design, and energy efficiency.

The decision to seek some sort of sustainable building certification may seem natural to some, but for many others in the housing, development and planning fields, the benefits of gaining a deep understanding of sustainability standards are realized over time. Mahase’s work on the development and preservation of affordable housing stock in New York City with NYC Housing Preservation & Development led to projects strongly shaped by the City’s sustainability initiatives, and requiring expertise on more technical aspects of building envelopes. While Mahase recognizes that there are challenges to building green communities and energy efficient housing stock while at the same time reducing costs and making housing affordable, he points out that green buildings are the standard of the future. It is crucial for planners and professionals working in the fields of housing and neighborhood development to understand technical elements of green buildings to become better decision makers and facilitators in their work, he said.

Mahase shared an exciting green building development in New York City, where changes in the public understanding of the importance of sustainability have led to groundbreaking discussions over external installations of building insulation. External insulation encroaches upon existing sidewalk space since most buildings in the city are currently built out to the lot line; however, increasing recognition of the energy and cost savings of insulation, along with greenhouse gas reduction impacts, has allowed a change in public discourse over the built structures shaping the city. The city’s allowance of building beyond established lot lines for the sake of greening the building stock is indicative of the weight and importance granted to green buildings today.

The breadth and depth of the sustainable building and community field are continuing to evolve. Wennersten and Rossi shared information on the LEED certification preparation and exam process, as well as opportunities within the NYC area for connecting with the sustainable building community. Students interested in green buildings and communities have a rich array of resources at their disposal; NYU’s Sustainability Task Force is highly active in developing sustainability policies and practices throughout the university. Urban Green Council, the NYC chapter of the USGBC, hosts a large number of events and educational seminars for seasoned and emerging professionals interested in sustainability in urban buildings. NYU Wagner is also an excellent place to start student chapters of the USGBC, or study groups for the LEED accreditation exam. To learn more about LEED certified projects and the LEED accreditation process, visit the USGBC LEED site here.