In New York City – as in most metropolitan areas – buildings have a significant impact on the environment. Energy used in buildings account for nearly 80% of New York’s greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings also account for most of the city’s water use and waste stream. Additionally, building lots make up half of the city’s land area, thus greatly adding to the landscape of this vibrant city. New Yorkers also spend most of their time indoors; therefore, buildings also contribute to the health of the city’s residents.
In a city with such a huge population, many older buildings, and with so many people in vertical living, it can be quite challenging trying to become more energy efficient and using sustainable building methods. But, owners of both commercial and residential buildings are making a different, one step at a time. Take for instance, the 19th century bank recently donated by New York tycoon Ron Hershco to the Rush Foundation, a non-profit organization created primarily to advance the arts through education.
Mr. Hershco’s architectural team, along with Meridith McNeal, the donated building’s director, are diligently working together to bring to life their combined vision of a green space. The building will boast rooftop gardens as well as green walls, which work similar to green rooftops in providing additional insulation and protection that will reduce energy usage and provide better drainage. In addition to a green space, the bank turned arts education center will also house art galleries, art studio classrooms, artist studios, and more. What a great contribution to art students in the city, as well as to the green movement, creating a better, healthier environment for all!
In keeping with an eco-friendly construction method, the new building was renovated, rather than knocked down, where a lot of material would have to have been disposed of. The upkeep of the new arts center will fall to the Horticultural Society of New York (HSNY), a partner of the Rush Foundation, and a group experienced in environmentally friendly methods of building maintenance.
Mr. Hershco is setting a great example by helping his city be more environmentally friendly. New Yorkers are also doing their part in becoming more green, whether it’s by incorporating sustainable waste reduction methods (recycling and composting), using eco-friendly cleaning supplies, using systems that recycle or reuse water for greater water efficiency, or installing air filtration systems.
Making our city – and our planet – a healthy and safe environment to live and work in is the responsibility of all of us. In order to leave this place a better place for future generations, we need to set a good example of a green ambassador and educate our children in ways to live a more environmentally friendly life. We don’t all have the means or the opportunity to contribute in the scale that Ron Hershco and the Rush Foundation are able to, but we can certainly do our small part in making a huge difference.