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Translating Sustainability Into Action

By Sharon Chen
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Cornell University Sustainable Design students are getting a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity: they are developing a community of sustainable housing in Little Falls, New York. Eighteen students from different majors will oversee the project. From public relations and marketing of the green community, to designing  houses that marry together sustainability and economic feasibility, to developing and building a solar array field that will achieve net-zero energy use for the community, students are doing it all.

This housing community is intended to be an example of sustainability in action. As Zachary Cesaro, the student project lead, says, they hope to “[transcend] the activism message” behind sustainability to show how it works in the real world.

Equally valuable is the hands-on, multi-disciplinary learning that students will gain from the project. This type of background will be invaluable as our economy and job market go increasingly green. By giving students the opportunity to translate sustainability into tangible results that people can see (and live in), Cornell University is exemplifying how higher education contributes to climate change solutions. 

Cornell University Sustainable Design Embarks on Housing Project

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.”

The housing development project is deeply rooted in the theme of sustainability. Casullo’s goals tie in with his passion and ambitions for sustainable housing and net-zero energy use, implemented through cutting-edge technology, according to Cesaro. For this reason, the project became a collaboration with CUSD, broken up into design, energy and public relations sectors.

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