The Sustainable Community Development Program


Sustainable Community Development Lecture Series titled "Our Built
Environment" at The Cracker Factory in Geneva, January 30, 2012.
From left to right: Dennis Andrejko, Joel Helfrich, Jeffrey Blankenship,
Dirk Schneider, Chris Resig, and Adam Maurer.

In response to both intense student interest and growing public recognition of the need for communities to address a myriad of social, economic and ecological challenges, the FLI and HWS are developing a set of programs and opportunities to better prepare students for careers in economic development, social justice, and stewardship of the natural environment.

Specifically, the FLI is working with faculty and staff, as well as community and business leaders, to design and implement a program for undergraduates to complement their academic work in Environmental Studies, Architectural Studies, Economics, Public Policy, Urban Studies, and other areas. The ultimate goal is to better educate and prepare our undergraduates for the multiple directions to which their baccalaureate degree may lead, while making them more aware of their role as citizens and members of a community. To support this effort, the FLI and HWS offer students with a variety of academic and professional opportunities.

Curriculum at HWS

Presently, the Sustainable Community Development Program offer two courses – an introductory course and a capstone course, which are described below. The SCD Steering Committee, consisting of HWS faculty from the departments of Economics, Geoscience, Environmental Studies, Biology, Architectural Studies, provides guidance for the program and is currently in the process of completing the academic process to officially establish Sustainable Community Development as a Minor.

ENV101: Sustainable Communities Course

The ENV101 Sustainable Communities course surveys and introduces students to the concept of sustainable development as applied to real world communities. It not only focuses on the three “interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars” of sustainable development—economic development, social development, and environmental protection—but also touches on intertwined subjects such as culture, education, public policy, landscape design, architecture, ecology, urban planning, and historic preservation. Rochester, Geneva, and other local communities in the Finger Lakes area serve as case studies to discern how cities and towns are working to become more sustainable; students learn about various opportunities to become civically engaged and involved within these communities.

All students in the Sustainable Communities course also participate in an interdisciplinary team project that explores local sustainability challenges and opportunities.  Past class projects have focused on urban water quality and stormwater runoff mitigation techniques, brownfield redevelopment, vacant residential and commercial redevelopment, regional economic development, natural resource management and town vs. city policy analysis, among others.

ENV/ARCH 351: Sustainable Community Development Methods and Planning

First offered in spring 2013, this course surveys practices and processes of sustainable community development planning, its application, methods and implementation. It surveys the myriad of approaches to sustainable development undertaken by a variety of disciplines that use disparate methods with differing degrees of success, and includes an assessment of the tools used to assess and measure sustainability including greenhouse gas inventory, carbon footprint, sustainable indicators and others.

All students enrolled in this course participate in an experiential project with a local organization—a significant component of the course. Through this service-learning project, students navigate through the process of developing a sustainable community development plan by applying the skills and knowledge developed throughout the course. This access to real world projects gives students experience with common trade-offs, constraints, and the challenges and difficulties of sustainable community design. In addition, students are required to work in interdisciplinary teams, requiring them to bring disciplinary skills into group public presentations and reports.

To view the projects created for this class, please visit: http://www.hws.edu/fli/projects_arch_env_351.aspx

Sustainable Community Development Lecture Series titled "Science
and Technology's Role in Sustainability," March 12, 2012, in the
Geneva Room on the HWS campus. Presenting: Ryan Fitzgerald,
e2e Materials. Sitting: Michael Coia, Seneca BioEnergy.

Public Lectures & Guest Speakers

The Sustainable Community Development (SCD) Lecture Series has been offered in spring 2012 and 2013. These free lectures have been open to HWS faculty, staff, and students, and the general public. Lecture topics typically fall within the following topic areas:

  • Built environment
  • Energy and waste
  • Food and water
  • Science and technology
  • Sustainable community development

These lectures aim to introduce students and the public to the most innovative, intriguing, inspirational, and informative projects that have been initiated in the Finger Lakes region and surrounding area. Guest lecturers include:

  • Dennis Andrejko, Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology,
  • Josh Cerra, Professor at Cornell University,
  • Michael Coia, Founder and CEO of Seneca BioEnergy,
  • Patrick Cullina, former Chief Horticulturalist of the High Line in NYC,
  • Ryan Fitzgerald, Corporate Development Manager for e2e Materials, Inc.,
  • Dirk Schneider, Owner of Chaintreuil | Jensen | Stark Architects, LLP,
  • John Sheppard, Town of Seneca Supervisor,
  • Catherine Tumber, author and Research Affiliate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Susan Cosentini, founder and owner of New Earth Living, developer and builder of small urban eco-villages
  • Michael Governale, founder and director of Reconnect Rochester
  • Khris Dodson, Senior Program Manager, EFC at Syracuse Center for Excellence
  • Marguerite Wells, Project Manager and Vice President of Black Oak Wind Farm, co-owner of Motherplants, LTD
  • Susan Noble, Executive Director at COrnlle, AG & Food Technology
  • Rob Englert, President of Ram Industries Design & D-Build


In addition to the SCD Lecture Series, the SCD program offers public lectures throughout the year and seeks to collaborate with campus and community organizations to provide influential guest lectures associated with sustainable community development ideas and concepts.

Dr. David Orr
Description: Orr_David 0037.jpgIn December 2012, Hobart and William Smith Colleges hosted Dr. David Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics; Special Assistant to the President of Oberlin College; and James Marsh Professor at the University of Vermont. During his visit, Dr. Orr met with several different Sustainable Community Development (SCD) program stakeholder groups including HWS senior staff and faculty; SCD faculty advisory group; municipal (city and county) officials, community organizations; businesspersons; and local citizens. Dr. Orr spoke to the different SCD stakeholder groups about sustainability curriculum, community engagement, town-gown relationships, and the challenges in establishing collaborations among several organizations.

In addition to his involvement with other initiatives, Dr. Orr is founder and visionary of the Oberlin Project, “a joint effort of the City of Oberlin, Oberlin College, and private and institutional partners to improve the resilience, prosperity, and sustainability” of the Oberlin community. The Oberlin Project is one of only eighteen Clinton Climate Initiative Global Projects, and one of three in the United States.

Orr also gave a public lecture at HWS on the resilience of our current economic, environmental, and social systems, which attracted nearly one hundred fifty people.

*Imbed video*

Douglas Farr
In April 2013, Hobart & William Smith Colleges brought Douglas Farr, founding principal and president of Farr Associates, an award-wining architecture and urban planning firm identified by the New York Times as "the most prominent of the city's cadre of ecologically sensitive architects." Mr. Farr is on the board of the Congress of the New Urbanism, serves on the BioRegional Development Group board of directors, and was the founding chair of the LEED for Neighborhood Development project. Mr. Farr was accompanied by Caitlin Ghoshal, a 2006 William Smith alumnae and Program and Development Director for the Congress of New Urbanism.

During their two-day visit, Mr. Farr and Ms. Ghoshal gave a free public lecture to over 100 people, met with ENV 101 and ENV/ARCH 351 students for project critiques, held faculty and staff meetings, and took a tour of HWS campus. This visit enhanced HWS’ relationship with Congress for the New Urbanism and alumni within sustainable community development fields.

The Sustainable Community Development Program has also been instrumental in facilitating opportunities for students to gain real-world experience in the practice of sustainable community development and design, in collaboration with community and regional partners.

Summer 2012

  • City of Geneva: Economic Development and Tourism

Like many small cities and villages in the Northeast, much of Geneva’s success depends on the vitality of the downtown area. Rich with historic buildings, restaurants, boutiques, and more, it is imperative for the economic stability of Geneva that residents and tourist have access to downtown amenities.

As was cited in the City of Geneva: Economic Development Strategies report by Camoin Associates in 2011 and several other reports conducted for the City of Geneva, the City lacks consistent signage throughout downtown and along the waterfront. In order to increase foot traffic in downtown, the Office of Neighborhood Initiatives has been granted permission to improve signage in strategic positions around and in Geneva.

The student intern researched, designed, and made recommendations to encourage pedestrians and motorists to visit downtown Geneva in response to the aforementioned economic development report and others on the City of Geneva.

  • Construction and Demolition Debris Data Analysis

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, as much as 30% of the solid waste in NY is comprised of construction and demolition (C&D) debris—a substantial portion of this building debris is recyclable yet still flows to disposal. This is particularly sensitive information for the Finger Lakes region because two of the largest landfills in NY—Seneca Meadows Landfill and Ontario County Landfill¾are located in the region. Improved access to training, a lack of markets and inconsistent markets, as well as a lack of common specifications, have all been identified as barriers to expanded C&D recycling.
To increase the amount of C&D material recycled, reused, and remanufactured in the Finger Lakes region, this position focused on gathering and analyzing information and data from the NYS DEC and other credible resources to:
•   Better characterize the C&D waste stream in New York State;
•   Identify end-uses and users to which the materials currently flow and could potentially flow; and
•   Connect sources with end-users of C&D materials via networking

This internship was offered in partnership with the NYS Construction & Demolition Resource Center at Syracuse Center of Excellence/Center for Sustainable Community Solutions. As a new program dedicated to promoting, supporting and addressing barriers to the growth of construction and demolition recycling in NY, this work directly impacts the evolution of C&D material management in NYS.

  • Regional Food Systems

A student researched and analyzed the local food system for promoting economic vitality and food security within proximity of Geneva, NY. Agriculture is one of the main economic drivers in the Finger Lakes region. In the nine-county region, agriculture contributes 11,577 jobs and $323.7 million in wages each year. Through their purchasing power, HWS and other large institutions in the region can be a catalyst of a food enterprise that retains profits locally, encompassing the entire food supply chain from farm to plate.

This position investigated the feasibility of vertical integration of all possible links in the pre-consumer supply chain for local food including production, distribution, processing, large institutions, and possibly restaurants. More specifically, the student intern identified regional sources of food produced sustainably; investigated existing systems that encourage locally sourced food and identify regional infrastructure and support to do so; and developed a network of local farms and food sources that would be accessible not only to HWS dining services, but also to surrounding restaurants and businesses.  Development of this network seeks to enhance the ability of businesses and communities in the region to use more locally sourced food and develop an increased social capital for the region. 

Fall 2012

  • Asset Management with the City of Geneva

Public infrastructure management is especially important for smaller municipalities throughout the Finger Lakes. Many rural areas are suffering from job losses, population decline, high poverty, vacant buildings, and crumbling infrastructure. These in turn have led to a decrease in tax revenue, increase in public work costs, and decrease in quality of life. As fiscal constraints increase in rural areas, it becomes increasingly important to proactively manage existing infrastructure, while at the same time, anticipate future needs.

Due to lack of financial and staff capacity, many smaller municipalities have resorted to ‘emergency management’¾while some figures show that scheduled maintenance costs are as much one-third the cost of emergency repairs. Through conversations with officials from the City of Geneva, much of the current needs are infrastructure related. This internship is designed to gather, express, and analyze data related to the City’s infrastructure. This data can be used to achieve optimal use of financial resources and to spur decision-making processes on maintenance, rehabilitation, and replacement activities.

In fall 2012, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the Finger Lakes Institute and the City of Geneva partnered together to update City zoning maps. A Hobart and William Smith student was given technical support by the Colleges in order to assist the City of Geneva in digitizing old zoning maps, making them more accessible to the general public. This partnership provided the City of Geneva the technical expertise and manpower to accomplish a task that can greatly improve functionality within City operations, while also improving access to public information.

Summer 2013

  • Finger Lakes Institute – Community Design Center  
In a collaborative team environment, five students from Architectural Studies and Environmental Studies worked with two main community partners to research and develop sustainable design solutions and plans that are feasible, implementable and responsive to community needs. Interns gained experience in site planning, architectural and urban design, sustainable development and environmental assessment, community outreach, engagement, research, writing and public speaking. The projects that student interns were involved in are described in more detail below.

Finger Lakes Institute – Community Design Center
As part of the mission of the SCD Program and the Finger Lakes Institute to connect the HWS community to the surrounding Finger Lakes region, the FLI houses a community design center, dubbed the FLI-CDC, which strives to provide Finger Lakes communities with innovative, creative, and sustainable design solutions that improve the built environment and quality of life, while protecting the natural environment. Support for the FLI-CDC has been generously provided by the Isabel Foundation and Triad Foundation. The FLI-CDC is led by Cari Varner.

Communities throughout the Finger Lakes region share similar economic, environmental, and social characteristics mainly as a result of the natural assets and history of the region. The current and future state of communities relies on improving quality of life for all citizens, being good stewards of natural resources, and fostering the responsible growth of the built environment. The FLI-CDC seeks to leverage the expertise of the FLI-CDC staff, HWS students, and faculty to promote sustainability in the region.


  • Green Infrastructure for Historic Districts

In partnership with the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council (G/FLRPC), the team identified and detailed green infrastructure for stormwater management techniques suitable for each of the seven historic districts in Ontario County. In the context of stormwater management, the term green infrastructure includes a wide array of practices such as rain barrels, bio-swales, green roofs and permeable paving to manage, treat, capture and reuse stormwater. In the past, these techniques were actually very common, as traditional grey infrastructure was considered expensive and wasteful.

The FLI-CDC team surveyed the archives of local historic societies and museums for evidence of green infrastructure techniques in each of the National Historic Districts, so that future installations can be designed to be as consistent with the past as possible. Next, they surveyed each district, mapping ideal locations for the infrastructure techniques, considering ground cover, soil type, existing infrastructure and other factors. Best practices manuals and brochures were made to help property owners implement the recommended techniques. The manuals included detailed installation and maintenance guidelines, as well as recommendations to ensure that the green infrastructure technique enhanced the historic character and integrity of the district. In a public presentation at the end of the summer, the team presented their findings and summarized the applicable techniques to municipal officials and local historians. Plans are in place to distribute the brochures to property owners, and copies of the best management guides can be found at: http://www.gflrpc.org/GIHistoricDistricts.htm.

  • Re-Envisioning Routes 5&20 in the City & Town of Geneva


In Summer 2013, a student team worked in partnership with the Geneva Neighborhood Resource Center (GNRC), and collaborated with the City of Geneva, the Town of Geneva, and the New York State Department of Transportation. All three entities share jurisdiction of Routes 5&20, the main commercial corridor through the community. Unfortunately, sprawl-style and big-box development has eroded the rural and small town character of the corridor, and different zoning codes and tax structures have resulted in a confusing development environment for businesses. However, the City and the Town of Geneva are dedicated to increasing collaboration and promoting a sense of place along the corridor, and the FLI-CDC developed innovative policy guidelines to facilitate communication and cooperation including the formation of a Joint Advisory Committee.

The team also looked into four issues identified along the corridor of Routes 5 & 20 - aesthetics, walkability, storm water collection, and parking - and used the findings to develop specific design guidelines that could be adopted by both jurisdictions.  Renderings were created to depict the application of these guidelines, showing the reuse of a vacant bank lot, the implementation of a parklet in a rarely used portion of a parking lot, the addition of more street trees to various properties, and a new welcome sign. A public presentation was given to representatives of the City, Town and NYSDOT, and plans are in place to continue the conversation, and make additional presentations to municipal officials.


  • A Sustainable Sensory Garden for Ontario ARC

For fall 2013, the FLI-CDC begana new project, in partnership with Ontario ARC. Ontario ARC is a private, not-for- profit that serves more than 900 children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families throughout Ontario County. Their Eberhardt facility, located in Canandaigua, serves 60 – 70 adults and 15 staff, and features a large outdoor recreation area. Currently, the space features pathways, landscaping, a pavilion area, two swings and a few benches. The FLI-CDC will be working to re-design the Recreation Area to create a sensory garden, provide better opportunities for passive and active recreation, and incorporate green infrastructure and environmental education opportunities in a way that provides an interesting and functional space for all people, regardless of ability.

To assist in this effort, the team is consulting with the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access at the University at Buffalo. The IDeA Center is dedicated to making environments and products more usable, safer, and healthier in response to the needs of an increasingly diverse population. The IDeA Center’s activities are based on the philosophy of Inclusive Design, often called universal design. Universal design is the concept of designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life. To assist with the landscaping selected for the Recreation Area, the team is working with faculty members Jeffrey Blankenship and Kristen Brubaker.



Adam Maurer
Project Manager of SCD Program
(315) 781-4380


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