ESF Helps Green Up U.S. Mission in Switzerland

ESF student and two faculty members on Mission Geneva Green Team

Nine U.S. landscape architecture students, including one from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), worked with three faculty advisors in Switzerland to help craft a design to green the grounds of the United States Mission to the United Nations in Geneva.

ESF fifth-year landscape architect student Michael Scholtz of Goshen, N.Y., and eight other landscape architecture students were selected from 130 applicants in a nationwide search overseen by the American Society of Landscape Architecture.

The American students and three Swiss students spent two weeks, from Aug. 1 to 14, 2010 studying the grounds and developing a design to benefit the local environment and demonstrate the United States' commitment to sustainable living.

"This was a great opportunity to showcase the sustainable landscape design practices that we teach and our students demand because of the central role landscape architecture can play in addressing environmental issues," said Richard Hawks, chair of ESF's Department of Landscape Architecture.

Hawks and ESF Assistant Professor Timothy Toland were two of the three faculty advisors selected for the project.

Toland said, "The students took a comprehensive look at the entirety of the grounds, making suggestions to improve the site to meet the needs of the Mission while also reducing its environmental impact. The goal is to have ideas generated by the students develop into actual site changes over the next five years."

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva represents the United States at the United Nations and other international organizations and is a major center for multilateral diplomacy in Europe. The building regularly hosts diplomats from around the world for important bilateral and multilateral discussions on a variety of security, economic and political issues, including the recent negotiations on the New START nuclear treaty.

The prominence of the Mission building in international Geneva and the fact that it is regularly visited by diplomats and political figures from around the world were factors when the U.S. State Department selected Geneva as its "Flagship Post for Energy and Sustainability." The building is the site of the installation of the largest solar energy project ever undertaken by the Department of State overseas and home to an innovative magnetic levitation chiller air conditioning system that runs a virtually friction-free compressor.

The Geneva region is a major international center for conservation and the environment. The city is home to the European headquarters of the U.N. Environment Program and to major organizations such as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Nearby Gland is the site of two of the world's most important conservation organizations: the World Wide Fund for Nature and the World Conservation Union. During their stay in Geneva, the students had an opportunity to visit some of these organizations; meet with international diplomats, UN staff and representatives of non-governmental organizations; and exchange ideas with major players in the environmental community in Switzerland.

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