Monday, November 27, 2006

Op-Ed: Admins Should Think Green for the New 65 5th Avenue

By Ryan Wood, outside contributer
      In the announcement of the flashy new fifteen-story tower soon to occupy 65 5th Ave, there was no talk of environmental accountability. There wasn’t the slightest mention of it anywhere in Executive V.P. James Murtha’s letter in the Annual Report, nor in the subsequent Inprint article.
      Given the state of the ecosystem and the recent emergence of some very impelling issues, I believe it is quite hypocritical for a university that purports to champion social justice to so casually overlook stating the environmental policy of its “signature” building. From my perspective, social and environmental responsibilities are closely entwined and mutually interdependent. You can’t talk about one and not the other.
      Admittedly, nothing has been said either way about how ecologically conscious the current construction plans are. It may be that those involved in the planning effort intend to utilize the greenest building practices currently possible. But the fact remains that the issue has not been publicly raised by the administration, so it must be raised here.
      Based on Murtha’s letter, it is clear that progressive aesthetics, modernity and high technology take precedence in this new building’s design. These are all important elements, but I believe they must be developed within a framework of environmental and civic awareness. I suggest that we build according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) specifications, a widely adopted measure of sustainable design and construction practices.
      A structure which fares well in this certification system tends to have more open space, more natural light, cleaner air, increased water conservation, efficient waste management, a well-developed recycling system and vastly increased energy conservation. For reasons that should be plainly obvious to most forward-thinking New Schoolers, achieving a high LEED certification would be a positive step in the direction of sustainability.
      Advertising this accomplishment could set a precedent for other institutions to follow in our footsteps. This is the definition of “progressive.”
      If you want to contribute to shaping something that will be here long after you leave, here’s your chance. Remember: it’s not just the physical walls of the classroom that are at stake here, it’s the tenability of the values put forth inside. Let’s come to a consensus on what social responsibility means to us as an institution, then let’s put into practice what we preach.

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