Lake Placid and the New York State Olympic region is adding green and gold to its miracle on ice roster of red, white and blue. As the selected host of the Winter World University Games in 2023, the Olympic region recently teamed up with Clarkson University to pursue LEED certification in effort to evaluate its sustainability efforts. Using the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED for Cities and Communities rating system, the region achieved LEED Gold certification and joins a distinguished group of LEED-certified cities and communities around the world.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a globally recognized rating system designed to help buildings, cities and communities achieve high performance in key areas of human and environmental health. LEED enables cities and communities, like the Olympic region, to measure and track outcomes and evaluate progress against key metrics, including energy, water, waste, transportation and factors relating to quality of life.
To help New York Olympic Region (NYOR) with the process, Mayor Craig Randall, Councilman Jay Rand, Mike Pratt of the Olympic Regional Development Agency and Superintendent Dr. Roger Catanina of the Lake Placid Central Schools worked with Clarkson University’s Erik C. Backus who is the Howard E. Lechler Endowed Director of Construction Engineering Management and Executive Officer for the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.
The region’s work with the university is a leading example of how local partnerships can affect change and serves as a model for other cities and communities working to demonstrate sustainability leadership. “The cornerstone for the success of the Lake Placid certification started with a partnership of Dr. Stephen Bird and integrated research project for the Clarkson Adirondack semester in the fall of 2018,” says Backus. “Since then, it’s continued to grow in different ways. For example, some students created a new business focused on community sustainability certification with help from The Shipley Center [see sidebar], and, this semester, students with the Clarkson Honors Program will continue with the work undergraduates began last year.” “We are excited to be a part of a start-up that will help communities become more sustainable,” says Benjamin Buck, CivE ’21, and Megan Flory, Psychology & Pol. Sci. ’21. “It was an awesome opportunity to be a part of the NYOR certification process to help us learn and develop this into a business to help others.”
The NYOR Partnership is the first Olympic destination to achieve LEED certification under the LEED for Cities and Communities rating system. The NYOR Partnership incorporates strong environmental policies from the Adirondack Park and combines four unique jurisdictions into the single partnership entity.
“Transforming our spaces to be more sustainable happens one community at a time. Lake Placid understands the value of LEED and its ability to help set goals and deploy strategies that are appropriate for the local environment,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO, USGBC. “Each new LEED certification is one step closer to revolutionizing the places where we live, learn, work and play.”
“The Olympic movement has a strong eye towards sustainability, for that reason becoming LEED-certified by one of the foremost green building groups in the world, is something this special community couldn’t pass up,” says Backus. ORDA’s Pratt added, “We are pleased to be a major stakeholder in this effort. The recognition for the community is shouting out the values of New York State, ORDA and the Olympic Region.” “Congratulations for this achievement to you Erik and the team that worked to get the Olympic Region to this point,” said Mayor Randall, adding that “[a]s we work toward the 2023 Winter University Games I have no doubt this achievement will play a part in the educational focus of the Games.”
Backus was integral to the certification process and has extensive experience in green building and with LEED. He is also the volunteer chair of the Market Leadership Advisory Board for the New York Upstate Community of USGBC and regularly coordinates student-led LEED Green Associate workshops, teaches courses in sustainability and encourages students and faculty to study and research topics across the spectrum of sustainability.
The certification process was rigorous; however, Backus was optimistic that the region would achieve it, making NYOR a great contender as the future host of Olympic sports. Throughout the process, Clarkson students, Bird, and Backus completed an analysis of the NYOR’s sustainability efforts such as the Lake Placid/North Elba Development Commission’s effort to remake the former Chubb River power reservoir into a community natural wellness park. They worked directly with the Village of Lake Placid, the Lake Placid Central Schools, the NY Olympic Regional Development Authority and the Town of North Elba to achieve the steps necessary for the certification to be approved.
“This has been a sincere and truly rewarding experience for everyone involved,” says Backus. “Clarkson enables faculty, staff, and students the ability to merge their passions with their professional vocation, academic career, and experiences to serve the greater good—not only for the institution, but, also, for the community. It’s the ultimate win-win-win opportunity.”
There will be a celebration in Lake Placid December 6, 2019, in honor of the certification status.
About Clarkson University
As a private, national research university, Clarkson is a leader in technological education and sustainable economic development through teaching, scholarship, research and innovation. The school ignites personal connections across academic fields and industries to create the entrepreneurial mindset, knowledge and intellectual curiosity needed to innovate world-relevant solutions and cultivate the leaders of tomorrow. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the New York Capital Region, Beacon, N.Y., and New York City, Clarkson educates 4,300 students across 95 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, the arts, education, sciences and health professions. Alumni earn salaries that are among the top 2.5% in the nation and realize accelerated career growth. One in five already leads as a CEO, senior executive or owner of a company.
About the U.S. Green Building Council
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. USGBC works toward its mission of market transformation through its LEED green building program, robust educational offerings, an international network of local community leaders, the annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, the Center for Green Schools and advocacy in support of public policy that encourages and enables green buildings and communities. For more information, visit usgbc.org and connect on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Established in 1982, the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) was created by the State of New York to manage the facilities used during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid. ORDA operates Whiteface, Belleayre and Gore Mountain ski areas; the Olympic Sports Complex at Mt. Van Hoevenberg; the Olympic speed skating oval, Olympic jumping complex and Olympic arena. As host to international and national championships, the Authority has brought millions of athletes, spectator and participants to the region, resulting in significant economic development.