Can Colleges Inform Climate-Wise Community Developments?

City leaders often look to businesses, non-profits, and municipal partners for inspiration in implementing climate action plans. However, one under appreciated source of climate solutions is academia. Researchers and students at Cornell’s School of Sustainable Design are undertaking bold new projects that rethink community developments, which may provide mayors with new tools for acting on climate in their cities.

One element of the school’s ambitious new program is the construction of a new campus, featuring rental homes for students or faculty, and a number of estates that will be made available for residential use. The new community will be powered by on-site solar, will have net-zero energy use, rainwater collection and even a community composting center. These efforts are all aimed at decreasing the environmental footprint of planned developments, while maintaining a community atmosphere that will draw residents.

One key element to the project is its multidisciplinary approach. Students with backgrounds in design, energy, and even economics and marketing will be included on the project. The hope is to construct a sustainable community that can be a model for new developments in the future, and be economically viable. Students will even meet with home-industry insiders to gain a better understanding of the challenges and demands of such projects in real world situations.

Students and faculty from Cornell University’s School of Sustainable Design are rethinking community development projects. Their research is providing a template for sustainability that will be valuable for mayors and policy makers throughout the nation. For more information on how your community can become a climate leader, check out Path to Positive Communities.

Cornell University Sustainable Design Embarks on Housing Project

By Kevin Wang | The Cornell Daily Sun | October 6, 2015

A small city situated over 90 miles northeast of Ithaca, Little Falls is the epicenter of a new sustainable housing project taken on by Cornell University Sustainable Design this semester. With a site of over 100 acres, the Overlook Ridge Development Project seeks to construct a campus to host sustainable rental homes and private estates.

Led by Zachary Cesaro ’16 and Project Chairman David Casullo — president of Bates Communications — the project groups 18 students from across the University and aims to begin construction in Little Falls early next year. Adding to the 17 existing buildings on the Overlook Ridge campus, the team plans to implement a solar array field to power the community in an environmentally friendly way, revitalizing the community and prompting development in the region.

“The plan for the site is … to be a leader in sustainable development,” Cesaro said. “[Casullo] is planning on re-envisioning this huge plot of land to a planned sustainable community.” That would ultimately include private estates, some rental townhouse-type apartments, and the main attraction being a Leadership Development Institute.”

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