NYCHA releases ambitious update to its Sustainability Agenda with Arup guiding a resident-centric focus

Jackie Wei Green Jackie Wei Green Americas Head of Communications,Los Angeles
20 September 2021

Arup is celebrating the release of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Sustainability Agenda 2021, the agency’s roadmap and commitment for creating healthier, safer, and more comfortable homes for its residents while advancing environmental stewardship and sustainable design to address climate change and meet the New York City’s mandate for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

This is a five-year update to NYCHA’s initial Sustainability Agenda from 2016.  The updated agenda was co-created through a collaborative process with NYCHA residents, city agencies, community-based organizations, and technical experts, including Arup’s experts in energy performance, resiliency and circular economy. Arup advised on the overall 2021 agenda development to identify new targets, existing goals to expand upon, and actionable strategies for achieving goals, as well as created a visually accessible, more user-friendly document for the public to engage with.

Aligned with NYCHA’s “resident first” focus, the goals in the newest Sustainability Agenda outline how the agency can implement innovative technical solutions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while using an ethical and inclusive model to execute projects and support residents. The new Sustainability Agenda is comprised of five goals: 1) Reduce Greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050; 2) Cultivate healthy and resilient communities based on design excellence; 3) Empower residents through community activation and workforce development; 4) Ensure efficient building operations and resource management; and 5) Leverage all funding and financing toward healthier and decarbonized buildings.

“We ensured that equity was embedded in each of the goals of the Sustainability Agenda,” said Pallavi Mantha, Arup’s sustainability lead on the project. “To address inclusivity throughout, we focused on developing an accessible and usable agenda, expanding on strategies and providing pathways for activating processes.”

The Sustainability Agenda 2021 presents a viable path forward with critical strategies such as major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and holistic and transformative building renovations that incorporate the industry’s latest technologies, contributing to the creation of a sustainable and equitable urban environment in New York City and serving as a model for other cities across the nation.  

The new document captures the evolving nature of NYCHA—the largest public housing authority in the country, more populous than some of the biggest U.S. cities such as New Orleans and Cleveland—which works to provide safe, affordable housing for the over 380,000 low–and moderate-income New Yorkers in NYCHA’s 335 developments. This update includes a series of reforms to create a culture of service, empower staff and residents, and further enable data-driven decision making. Beyond creating a better living environment for NYC residents and a cleaner environment for all, the document outlines opportunities for residents to gain skills and employment in cutting-edge green industries.

To support NYCHA's residents first commitment, Arup designed a series of workshops that brought together NYCHA department leaders with other New York City agencies, key stakeholders and NYCHA residents to challenge and inspire possibilities, understand priorities, and build relationships and coordination on strategies and implementation. Arup worked with NYCHA to develop a resident impact indicator and a timeframe for each of the goal’s strategies. The indicators serve to address resident quality of life through factors including improved safety, climate and environmental protection and healthy living environments; a sense of community cohesion through accessible, equitable, and inclusive design; and economic opportunities through training, education, and job creation. NYCHA will work with residents to develop programming to foster deeper engagement in environmental activism and participatory urban design. For example, when creating resilient landscapes, NYCHA will also develop community stewardship programs providing an opportunity for both resident education and engagement.

Driving innovation in energy and sustainability is a key component of the Sustainability Agenda. NYCHA will partner with organizations such as the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority to advance new technologies, and the agency will pursue creating sustainable markets through its buying capacity and scalability. The Sustainability Agenda also outlines how NYCHA will update its Design Guidelines to ensure electrification, renewable energy production, sustainable materials, and energy and water efficiency are part of its normal course of business. 

The new Sustainability Agenda is a robust roadmap to the future to help NYCHA create a better environment for its residents, while being at the forefront of innovation and ensuring that public housing thrives to serve generations to come.