Greening the Knowledge Base: The Research Program at NYC DDC’s Office of Sustainable Design – March 15, 2006

March 15, 2006

The March Green Building forum happily welcomed John Kriebel and Laurie Kerr of the Department of Design and Construction. The DDC is responsible for managing most of New York City’s structure and infrastructure, and the purpose of the Office of Sustainable Design (OSD)is, as John put it, “to infiltrate the DDC”. John and Laurie aimed to research and define what the most reasonable, sustainable practices were for New York City’s public projects. Since the DDC is involved in about 400 projects at one time, and Local Law 86 now requires that many new development projects achieve ambitious sustainability status, it was imperative that the city re-asses and update their practices. The outcome of their exhaustive research is the High Performance Infrastructure Guidelines.

The agency set out on this impressive task for a few reasons. First, New York City is unique in that our developments are limited by our infrastructure, including water, energy, and sewer systems. Additionally, we’re the largest US city, and while other locales have already taken the initiative towards becoming more sustainable, if New York raises the bar, then other regions are sure to follow. Our population’s health would benefit from more responsible design and materials, and on the fiscal end of the spectrum, by updating our infrastructure requirements to be more environmentally sound, we can expect a greater financial payback over the long term.

For example, Laurie investigated the best way for the city to handle construction and demolition (C&D) waste. Over 60% of our city’s waste is of this nature, and 15,000 tons of C&D waste is shipped out to landfills across country every day. She compared data provided by other cities that already practice energy- and resource-saving strategies, and after calculating our numbers, a hierarchy of effective means for managing C&D waste was developed:

  • 1) Reuse on site
  • 2) Recycle onsite
  • 3) Reuse offsite
  • 4) Recycle offsite

By taking measures to cut down on the waste and to recover more recyclable materials, the city is reducing air, water, and soil pollution, supporting the market for recycled materials, and depending less on landfills.

Laurie and John were brimming with information on this newly published handbook, which is available as a PDF here. The OSD is intent on informing anyone interested in their finds, and is also hard at work on 30 Pilot Projects that employ some of their new green building practices, and aiming to be various degrees of LEED certified. Keep track of what the OSD is doing right here, and be proud of your city for taking the initiative to build green!

-Shawna Michaud


The Green Building Forum is held on the third Wednesday of each month (except December) @6:30 PM and features presentations by green building practitioners followed by discussion. The events are always free and open to the general public. Please RSVP by email to: rsvp@GreenHomeNYC.org. View the notes and related information from all our past forums here, and look for details on upcoming forums on our events calendar. You can also join our mailing list to keep up on all our upcoming events.

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