Architects Get in the Green Game

Event: AIANY Joins AmeriCorps for Community Service Day: “Getting Green Done”
Location: Thomas Jefferson Park Recreation Center, 05.09.09
Organizers: AIANY Emerging NY Architects Committee; AIANY

Designers conducted a charrette about ideas to green NYC.

Jessica Sheridan

Can a group of architects and designers come together and make NYC buildings carbon neutral, and even bring them off the grid? This was the question posed at the launch of AmeriCorps Week on May 9. Throughout the day, community groups gathered to plant trees, clean up parks, and improve schools under the theme, “Getting Green Done.” AIANY with the AIANY Emerging NY Architects Committee (of which this author is the co-chair) hosted a design charrette at the Thomas Jefferson Park Recreation Center aiming to prove that architects are key to sustainability efforts in the city.

After a general tour of the Robert Moses-commissioned bath house-turned-recreation center, designers and one engineer from Arup (“to keep us honest,” quipped Margaret Castillo, AIA, LEED AP, AIANY Vice President of Public Outreach) broke out into three groups tackling themes of energy, envelope, and program. Ideas included: inserting skylights and operable windows for cross ventilation; adding a green roof with photovoltaics; installing thermal solar hot water heaters and low-flow showerheads; re-using gray water from rain and the pool; insulating the walls; installing vertical shades; and providing opportunities for users to learn about the systems implemented. The programming team focused on limiting circulation so the maximum amount of space can be used for various activities. There was a small proposal that adjusted the existing circulation, medium-sized proposal that made the center more accessible, and a large proposal that sunk additional program below grade under earth berms.

After an afternoon of brainstorming, the team proved that it would not take much more than creative thinking to achieve carbon neutrality at the recreation center. While there are many engineers currently conducting everything from energy audits to mechanical system overhauls, they demonstrated that architects should also be called upon to conduct sustainability surveys of existing buildings. Perhaps if this team continues to grow, the success of PlaNYC will be possible by 2030.