From The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation is committed to halving the amount of food that goes to waste, which has reached crisis levels. As part of this commitment, we supported AIANY’s Zero Waste Design Guidelines, which we hope will help cities—starting with New York, and soon others around the worldas they work toward a waste-free future. Though these guidelines aim to minimize waste of all types, our focus is on how approaches like these can play in addressing global food waste.

We produce enough food for everyone on the planet, yet too many lack proper nutrition because one-third of all food is never consumed. This wasted food also wastes all the precious natural resources that go into its production—like fresh water and farm land—and chokes our atmosphere with greenhouse gases as it languishes in landfills. Beyond the impacts on our planet, families lose hard-earned resources, too: in the United States alone, the average family of four spends $2,000 every year on food they throw away.

Subtle changes in how buildings are envisioned and operated—which make it easier for occupants to change their own behaviors—can add up quickly and make a significant impact. We all have a role to play in cutting food waste, and new approaches to waste management can help us fulfill that responsibility.

We thank the AIANY team for leading this innovative work, and we look forward to more efforts that encourage sustainable living habits among consumers, residents, businesses, and communities worldwide.

Peter Madonia
Chief Operating Officer
The Rockefeller Foundation


From the American Institute of Architects New York

“New York, let’s clean up New York!” scolded the gravelly voice of actor Danny Aiello. This popular public service announcement aired on TV and radio in the 1970s and ’80s. The ad’s chiding tone reminded me, then a child growing up in the city, and other New Yorkers that it was our responsibility to keep New York clean.

Years later, while there may be less litter laying about and more trash receptacles on the city’s corners, streetscapes are dominated by waste: mountains of bagged trash, recycling blobs and cardboard box towers. With no alleys and no standardized requirements for on-site trash storage, New York’s sidewalks become barely navigable as ephemeral trash supertalls are routinely constructed and dismantled.

The Zero Waste Design Guidelines point out that waste is a design flaw. With that thought in mind, this report asserts that through design thinking, New York’s architects, government officials and citizens can solve our trash predicament.

The chapter has a long history of collaborating with the city on various guidelines that offer design solutions to improve spaces and lives. AIANY publications such as the Aging in Place Guidelines for Building Owners and the Active Design Guidelines have encouraged equitable, healthy and quality design for a broad range of New Yorkers.

AIA New York is proud to serve as the anchor institution for the development of the Zero Waste Design Guidelines. True to AIA New York’s core mission to serve its members, the project originated when a concerned architect asked the AIANY Committee on the Environment how she could design buildings that dealt with waste more effectively.

The process since then has been intense. Three meetings on the subject, held in 2015 and 2016, led to the transformative Rockefeller Foundation grant. We subsequently scaled up the project, hosting five public workshops at the Center for Architecture, which served to inform the content and research for the guidelines. An independent curator was hired to work with the committee throughout this process and produce a free and public exhibition on zero waste in 2018. The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-day symposium, evening panels and educational programming for New York City schoolchildren.

I am grateful to the large and dedicated team that brought this ambitious project to fruition, and I invite New Yorkers to once again join us as we clean up New York, this time with the new goal of achieving zero waste.

Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA
Executive Director
AIA New York Chapter | Center for Architecture


From the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability

The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability works every day to ensure New York City is the most sustainable big city in the world and a leader in the global fight against climate change. Achieving these goals require not only the collaboration of many City agencies, but also the support and collaboration of residents and professionals throughout New York City. These guidelines are the result of the hard work and commitment of dedicated New Yorkers to helping the City achieve its goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030 by ensuring that waste management, much like energy and water efficiency, are central to a building’s design.

Better designed, more effective, and more intentional waste management is a necessary part of the City’s effort to meet its climate goals. Decisions about waste management, however, aren’t just about the emissions of greenhouse gases from the waste itself, but all the greenhouse gas  emissions associated with the  transport and handling of waste within the city, as well as the upstream impacts of packaging, deliveries, and freight. Better designed, more effective, and more intentional waste management also requires acknowledging the integral potential it has to  improving a wide range of quality-of-life, public-safety, environmental, and economic issues.

The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability is pleased to be working with city agencies, advocates, building design professionals, and communities to help achieve our OneNYC goals to make New York City more just, equitable, sustainable, and resilient.

The Zero Waste Design Guidelines are an important step forward in solving some of the interconnected and complicated challenges of waste management in our dense urban landscape. The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability applauds AIA New York, the Center for Architecture, Kiss + Cathcart, Architects, Foodprint group, ClosedLoops, and The Rockefeller Foundation for their leadership in the development of these groundbreaking guidelines. We look forward to seeing how these guidelines help re-imagine possibilities for use and design of public and private space, and working with New Yorkers to turn these ideas into reality.

Mark Chambers
NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability


From the NYC Department of Sanitation

The Department of Sanitation is pleased to participate in the creation of AIANY’s Zero Waste Design Guidelines to help reimagine waste management for the future of New York.

Our involvement in this effort marks a departure from the norm. Traditionally, DSNY and other City agencies have not been invited to the table or played a role in the upstream generation and management of waste. In order for us to get to our goal of Zero Waste to Landfills by 2030, this needs to change.

Waste management takes place in a complex system in which every element is directly interconnected, from source separation by the generator, to handling and storage within the building, set-out on the street, collection, transfer, transport, processing, and disposal. While there has been a widespread focus on the rules—what materials should be sorted for recycling and how the materials are processed at transfer facilities—there needs to be equal focus on proper infrastructure. Simple adjustments to make source separation more intuitive and enjoyable can have a significant impact on behaviors. With a holistic approach that solves challenges for building residents, managers and staff looking to do the right thing, we can reduce the economic and environmental costs of waste management, and the quality-of-life impacts to our public and private spaces.

With aging infrastructure and significant design challenges in our largely vertical city, we realize the scale of the task at hand. We applaud AIA and the team that participated in this process for their willingness to investigate, listen and think more broadly about waste management. DSNY looks forward to continuing to support this effort together with the other agencies who share responsibility for the functioning of our private and public spaces.

Kathryn Garcia
Department of Sanitation

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