Creating Buffalo's 'green economy'

Jan 16, 2015

The University at Buffalo was recently named to the 2014 list of "Best of Green Schools," awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council under the collaboration category. The council recognized UB for work that started almost a decade ago.

As WBFO's Focus on Education reporter Eileen Buckley explains, UB is working with its partners to recreate Buffalo's green economy.

Downtown Buffalo's Canalside and waterfront.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

With an economic development boom underway in Buffalo, UB and its partners are working to make sure 'green' is a key component.  

"Together we can do so much more than we can by ourselves," said Robert Shibley, Dean of UB's School of Architecture and Planning, referring to collaborations on smart growth policies. 

"Together we can do so much more than we can by ourselves," said Robert Shibley, Dean of UB's School of Architecture and Planning. He is referring to collaborating for smart growth policies.

UB is creating a new green structure in downtown Buffalo and is renovating on its south campus.

"Every new building is now designed to a green-gold standards. We are in the process, very proudly, of completing our School of Medline and Biomedical Sciences, a very large construction project. It will be LED Gold. I am restoring, with our colleagues at construction fund in the University, the Hayes Hall project. Hayes will be a historic structure," said Shibley.

Once reconstruction at iconic the Hayes Hall is completed in Buffalo, the building will be deemed LED  Gold renovation. 

"It also reinforces the kind of relevance focus we've taken, as both a University and as a school of Architecture and Planning, that Architecture and Planning aren't plans on a shelf, they are architecture that's kind of frivolous. They are substantially engaged in the world that really makes a difference," stated Shibley.

Beyond structures, the effort has including protect and preserve natural resources in the Buffalo Niagara Region.

"I think it's in insuring that people see that our most important assess is the unique place we occupy on our earth," said Cara Matteliano, Vice President for Community Impact at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.

Robert Shibley, Dean of UB's School of Architecture and Planning, in the middle with green partner Cara Matteliano, Vice President for Community Impact at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo & UB's chief sustainability officer Ryan McPherson.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

The organization  jumped on board for a shared agenda in 2008 and is a major partner in the green effort.

Dredging of Buffalo River.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"What that meant to us is we needed to find the key players and bring them together in a collaboration, and that was when we came to the UB School of Architecture and Planning and Urban Design Project to help us to create a shared agenda for the environment which has led to the Western New York Environmental Alliance with 100 not-for-profit organizations of every environmental stripe and every cause," said Matteliano. 
                          
The partners work together to help promote  green for future Buffalo projects, effecting infrastructure and our environment, now this includes the cleaning up of mistakes of the past.

"Cleaning up the Buffalo River has been a huge success, and thank you to the Riverkeeper, so there's so many opportunities to clean up our old mistakes and not make any mistakes going forward," noted Mattleliano. 

It's believed this will be major factor in renewing the city's economy and preserving a precious resources. 

"You also wouldn't have a multi-billion dollar investment at the Riverbend site, not only to create renewable, cleaner energy, but to have anything," said UB's chief sustainability officer Ryan McPherson. 
 
McPherson said it is the remediation from groups like Riverkeeper that are helping to create our new green economy.

"It's no coincidence that as Buffalo starts to see more and more success and evolution, our environment has become that much better," said McPherson. 

WBFO News asked if there is less resistance in a 'green' effort, despite the expense and skepticism. "Unequivocally. I think you see it across the board," noted McPherson.           

"It's no coincidence that as Buffalo starts to see more and more success and evolution, our environment has become that much better," said McPherson.

McPherson, Matteliano and Shibley stressed the importance of watching and recognizing global impacts. They sum up how Buffalo can be a model in creating a new green.

Geese in the summer time at Buffalo's waterfront in downtown Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"There is a reason why we are moving forward in other areas, because if you don't have a healthy planet, you don't have a area that can leverage it's natural resources, let alone its human capital, you wont' be competitive through out this country and through out the globe," said McPherson. 

"Our community will be so much more progressive, so much more sustainable if we follow that environmental path from the beginning as opposed to trying to clean up the mess that we left," said Matteliano.

"But in the final analysis  it is the culture of our behavior that's going to change. The way in which we perform in terms of a quality environment.  The second thing is the recognition, just a kind of almost joyful recognition of how much progress we've already made. We've only got one planet, and we  really have to figure out, kind of globally, how to address it," said Shibley.