Going for Gold (Again): LEED for Communities in the New York State Olympic Region

POTSDAM, NY, Dec. 26, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Eight students from Clarkson University have been deeply involved in the recertification of New York State’s Olympic Region (NYOR) as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) community.  

In 2019, thanks to a similar student-executed effort, NYOR achieved Gold level certification in the then-piloted LEED for Communities (LfC) program.

This semester, students are back at it again, working to help the Olympic Regional Development Authority, the Village of Lake Placid, the Town of North Elba, and the Lake Placid Central School District go for sustainability gold as they look to recertify using the latest version of the LfC rating system.

“The Olympic Authority is proud to support the recertification efforts and partner in this unique community project,” said Emma G. Lamy, Sustainability & Environmental Compliance Officer, Office of Environmental, Planning & Construction, Olympic Regional Development Authority. “The Clarkson University students are bright and talented individuals who have been a pleasure to work with. The Olympic Authority has implemented numerous sustainability projects since the 2019 certification which, through assessing energy metrics and developing the innovation credits, have proven to be successful.  We are excited to continue working toward recertification with our regional partners and Clarkson.”

Students working on this project are participating in the Clarkson Adirondack Semester (ADK Semester), an immersive experience where students tackle a significant regional challenge while living in and being a full part of the Adirondack community by living on the campus of Paul Smith’s College.

Overseen by Clarkson’s Institute for a Sustainable Environment, this kind of hands-on, learning-by-doing approach is a hallmark of Clarkson University’s education, and especially valuable for immediately meaningful results for those that participate and benefit from the 15-week experience.

LfC uses metrics and data integrated with sustainability best practices and goals unique to each community as a mechanism to improve planning and performance to communities across the globe. A kind of sustainable, holistic planning system (SHPS), this program was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and has been in existence since 2016.

The NYOR was the first LfC Program in a rural, tourist and Olympics-based economy, with strong environmental policies from the Adirondack Park, and combining four unique jurisdictions into a single partnership entity. This was also the first-ever project executed primarily on the part of college students anywhere in the world.  

The 2023 effort will result in the first ever recertification of its kind and help to assess the staying power of SHPS for such communities. The integrated research effort will help the USGBC revise and update the LfC program, much as it did the last iteration, and inform the wider planning, policy, and community development world. For faculty and students, this provides a one-of-a kind and powerful educational experience.

“It gives me the opportunity to combine some of my different skill sets,” said Rebecca Pelky, Assistant Professor in Humanities & Social Science on why she likes teaching in the ADK Semester. “I have a background in the sciences, in biology, and teaching writing and literature here at Clarkson. I get to do the things I love, be out in the woods with students, and I think these are fantastic additions to the Clarkson education.”

“I need to know how to communicate with the local government and work with them.  I need to know how to obtain data, analyze it and have it inform policy,” said Natalie Warner, an Environmental Science & Policy major at Clarkson, when asked about her career.  “The ADK Semester lets me get that experience and learn firsthand.”  

“The ADK Semester, and this project in particular, is helping me decide the career path that I want to go down in the future,” added Rochelle Daniels, an Environmental Engineering major in the program. “Environmental engineering can be a broad career field and adding this policy aspect is helping me see that I want to work with government and seeing the tangible changes that can happen through the implementation of these policies and programs.”

The ADK Semester students presented an overview of the program, an overview of LEED for Communities, and reviewed the recertification status for NYOR, along with significant research findings they have uncovered along the way. Presentations occurred on Clarkson’s Collins Hill Campus in Potsdam, NY on December 8 and at the Lake Placid Conference Center in Lake Placid on December 11.

“We just want to thank you and we are glad you had a good experience,” said Dean Dietrich, member and former chair of the Lake Placid/North Elba Development Commission to students at the end of the public session in Lake Placid. “We really feel we live in paradise here, and we are happy to share that with you; and you’re making it an even better paradise. So, I hope you walk out of here feeling you did something good for our community, we certainly appreciate all your efforts.”

For further information, contact Stephen Bird, ADK Semester Director, at sbird@clarkson.edu.