New York City, NY

Opinion: The Need For Sustainable Architecture in NYC

Darshak Rana

It's no secret that NYC has a housing crisis.

With the average rent for an apartment in Manhattan now at $4,000 per month, it's common to see people living on their friends' couches or even in homeless shelters. And with over half of NYC residents paying more than they can afford in rent (according to census data), many are forced onto the streets.

New York City is also facing a significant deficit in affordable housing. If this trend continues, the city will have to spend $2 billion annually just to keep up with the demand for affordable housing.

Hence, there has been a surge of interest in sustainable architecture in recent years.

Let’s explore what sustainable architecture is and why it matters so much to NYC!

One common misconception about green architecture is that it’s expensive. But undertaking sustainable design does not necessarily mean you have to spend a fortune to be environmentally friendly.

In fact, some green building ideas can actually save costs over time. So what exactly do we mean by green architecture?

The modern architecture incorporates many green features such as solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems so as to reduce electricity usage and water consumption respectively.

Such architectural designs are not only aimed at reducing our carbon footprint but also help the environment in a big way – making them a win-win for both people and the planet!

Let's take a look at some ways architects use greenery, innovative design, and energy efficiency solutions to make our urban landscape better:


What if your trash is turned into treasure?

That’s what some green architects are doing. They are incorporating recycled materials in the buildings they design to minimize waste and lower costs.

For instance, one eco-friendly building in New York City has combined an old water tower with newly developed glass balconies so as to reuse existing infrastructure rather than demolishing it for new construction.

Another example of similar strategies being used is the renovation of a public pool at Brooklyn Bridge Park which features sustainable elements including “rainwater harvesting systems, green roofs, solar panels on stair enclosures, energy-efficient lighting and plumbing fixtures that include low flow showerheads".


Sometimes nature feels like a distant wish while we live in concrete jungles.

But there are some architects and designers who go out of their way to bring nature back inside the building. Many such green architecture ideas involve creating an indoor ecosystem where plants, insects, and other local fauna coexist with humans in harmony.

Green roofs are also known as eco-roofs or living roofs are gaining popularity across NYC. These rooftop gardens add aesthetic value to the buildings along with providing other environmental benefits such as pollution reduction, solar energy harvesting, better air quality, and noise abatement.

They also serve an important purpose of helping water retention by absorbing rainwater so it doesn’t get wasted away due to storm drains.

However, one must remember that these systems can't support all types of planting. Plants that are native to the local area are the best choice because they take into account how much sunlight is available, water availability, and soil quality.


NYC has many skyscrapers which actually improve air quality by lowering surface temperatures, trapping pollutants at street level, and creating windbreaks.

However, it was not until fairly recently that architects began thinking about vertical greenery in building design to provide additional ecosystem services. With trees being one of the best ways to crop carbon emissions from the atmosphere, NYC now regularly features green walls, roofs, and towers lined with trees!

The major benefit of using vertical greenery is how it beautifies urban environments.

These tree-lined structures especially improve street aesthetics significantly because they provide shade to pedestrians on sidewalks while creating a safer environment for people driving around as well which helps reduce accidents up to 67 percent!


It’s not only about reducing water consumption but also managing rainwater harvesting systems like cisterns for reuse efficiently.

Currently, NYC is facing a major challenge of how to manage to accumulate stormwater. While conventional development projects involve removing soil and vegetation that absorb water, green roofing helps retain rainwater so it can be reused in toilets or irrigation systems.

However, there are several limitations on the use of collected water due to the fact that many areas within the city don’t have proper drainage systems installed.

At present, rain barrels are sold commercially which allows consumers to harvest rainwater off their roofs using these cisterns to irrigate their gardens at home.

As you can probably imagine this has given rise to new business opportunities including companies like Gotham Greens who sells hydroponic vegetables grown on rooftops!


There are several green building certification systems including LEED, Green Globes, Living Building Challenge, and many others.

However, one of the most common strategies used in NYC is known as ‘passive house’ design which reduces the amount of heating required during winters by up to 90 percent!

This has become a very popular standard for new constructions because it also helps reduce greenhouse emissions associated with construction activity.


Vertical farming is another eco-friendly solution that can help lower energy consumption while increasing food production exponentially. An example would be using geothermal heating along with computerized climate control or artificial lights to grow crops indoors year-round!

One could argue that this method makes use of incalculable natural resources to produce food that can otherwise be considered sustainable.

Another identified challenge of vertical farming is that it's mostly implemented in urban areas instead of rural ones which are already well-staffed with efficient transportation systems, water reservoirs, and farmlands!

Your buildings should not be damaging the environment or human health.

Sustainable architecture is the practice of designing structures that are environmentally friendly and energy-efficient.

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