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Columbia University’s Manhattanville Expansion Proposal Selected for Environmentally Sustainable Neighborhood Design Pilot Program

The U.S. Green Building Council has chosen Columbia University’s proposed Manhattanville expansion plan for a new “smart growth” pilot program.

Part of the winning design for the Gateway National Recreational Area
View of the area in Manhattanville, looking northwest from 125th Street and Broadway, where Columbia proposes building a new urban academic environment.

The plan – developed by the University, with Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Architects/Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Urban Designers – was selected by USGBC because it commits to incorporating smart growth, new urbanism, and green building design principles. The planning design represents the best of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, the nationally accepted benchmark for green construction and design.

By 2025, population forecasters predict two-thirds of the world’s population will reside in cities and towns. As a result, urban planners have emphasized the need to think long-term.

“Columbia’s selection for the LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot program shows our commitment to planning and building in a way that will not only fulfill our academic mission, but also our responsibility to building a more environmentally sustainable future,” President Lee C. Bollinger said. “We have an obligation to future generations of young people, not only for their education but also for the kind of world they will inherit. This is another good step toward meeting that obligation.”

“I have been involved in development projects for more than 25 years,” Vice President for Manhattanville Development Philip Pitruzzello said. “What excites me so much about this project is our ability to put into practice the environmentally sustainable planning principles that will benefit all of us for years to come. Manhattanville will serve as a model for urban development in a changing world,” he added.

Acceptance to the program provides the University with the support and verification needed to play a pioneering role as it works with the USGBC to help set the standard for future urban planning. The program was developed as a partnership between the USGBC, the Center for New Urbanism, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. It recognizes sound planning in areas such as proximity to mass transit; mixed uses such as art, community, academic, retail and residential; open neighborhood access and walkable streets; and green construction.

“LEED-ND will set the standard for sustainable neighborhoods for decades to come,” says Nilda Mesa, director of environmental stewardship at Columbia. “We get the benefit of outside experts giving us input on best planning practices, and what we learn in this project will contribute to the USGBC’s knowledge base in setting the final standards. It’s a real opportunity for us to give back, and for us to learn and improve.”

Acceptance into the program comes on the heels of last week’s news that Columbia has accepted the challenge posed by Mayor Bloomberg to join New York City’s goal in pledging to reduce greenhouse gases 30 percent by 2017. Columbia, along with eight other New York City universities, joined as a Challenge Partner in Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030, the city’s comprehensive plan to create a more sustainable New York.

- Written by Alex Lyda

Published: June 14, 2007
Last modified: Jun 14, 2007