State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Bringing Sustainability Into the Restoration of an Architectural Jewel

lurie house in upstate new york
Photo: Thad Russell

Lynnette Widder is an associate professor of practice in the School of Professional Studies  at Columbia University. She teaches four courses in the Sustainability Management (SUMA) program: Responsiveness and Resilience in the Built Environment; Hungry City Workshop; Energy and Equity in the Built Environment (co-taught with Professor Diana Hernandez, Mailman School of Public Health); and one section of the Capstone Workshop.

Professor Widder was recently featured in an article about the restoration process of the Lurie House, a house in the Usonia Historic District in Pleasantville, New York, designed by Japanese-American architect Kaneji Domoto. The article references how a big part of the restoration process was to reduce the carbon footprint of the building. This included “assessing temperature flux throughout the space” and fixing the “insulation and airtightness issues of the building” to improve the efficiency of space conditioning and protect against moisture while preserving the original materials. “For this renovation, I used passive house airtight materials to maintain the integrity of the building’s modern architecture while upgrading its energy performance and comfort,” says Widder. The renovation reduced heating-related fuel consumption by almost 90 percent. Read the full article, published by High Performance Building Supply, here

Professor Widder has worked as an architect in Germany, Switzerland, and the U.S., and was the co-founder of Aardvarchitecture, a boutique architectural design office in New York City. She was the chair of the Department of Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she was associate professor of architecture until 2012. Her previous research projects include 20th century construction history, innovations in compressed earth block construction, and a variety of topics in international development. 

Professor Widder is working with Earth Institute colleagues on applying community-based mobile app technology to monitor the environmental impact of the bauxite mining industry in Guinea. She is presently the primary investigator on the project, which partners with the UN Development Programme. She received her Master of Architecture from Columbia University and her Doctor of Science from the Federal Technical institute of Switzerland. 

Her publications in the field of architectural history and sustainable development include:

  • Sustainably Growing Guinea’s Bauxite-Aluminium Industry, with T. Pacioni and O. Bocoum 
  • Using Technological Innovation and Corporate Social Responsibility to Connect Africa’s Smallholder Farmers to the Global Sustainable Agriculture Economy, with A. Igharo and S. Merriweather 
  • The book, Ira Rakatansky: As Modern as Tomorrow 
  • The book, Architectural Live Projects: Pedagogy into Practice, with Harriet Harriss

She has authored and co-authored numerous other journal articles and book reviews.

The M.S. in Sustainability Management, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Professional Studies, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. Visit our website to learn more.

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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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