High Performance Series 1998–2011

Our High Performance Guidelines series – Buildings, Infrastructure, and Landscape – have changed the way New York City designs and builds its public buildings, streets, and parks. 

  1. Phase I
  2. Phase II
  3. Phase III
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Photo: BKSK Architects 

The High Performance Building Guidelines put New York City at the forefront of comprehensive sustainability practices for its public buildings. 


The Guidelines created a framework for implementing environmentally responsible and energy efficient techniques in the planning, budgeting, design, construction and operation of the NYC Department of Design & Construction's municipal projects. A total of 22 buildings in full accordance with the high performance building guidelines have opened since, including many of the libraries, cultural institutions, police and fire stations, museums, day care centers, animal shelters and correctional facilities featured in the implementation report.

In addition, the guidelines helped kick-start a series of initiatives conducted by the DDC to further expand its emphasis on sustainability. The High Performance Building Guidelines, complemented by the adoption of Local Law 86 and projects such as the Design + Construction Excellence initiative, the PlaNYC report, the Sustainable Urban Site Design Manual and the Construction & Demolition Waste Manual, serve as the cornerstone of the DDC’s energy efficient building practices. 


In response to the need for a standardized framework of sustainable building practices, the Design Trust partnered with the New York City Department of Design & Construction to formulate High Performance Building Guidelines, which establish a foundation for implementing environmentally responsible and energy efficient techniques in the planning, budgeting, design, construction and operation of the DDC’s municipal projects. 


At the invitation of the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), one of New York City’s largest design and construction agencies, the Design Trust sponsored a year-long study to create the High Performance Building Guidelines. The study involved a full range of interrelated issues, from budgeting and site selection to design development and facility maintenance.

Design Trust fellows Stephen Campbell and William Reed led the DDC staff through industry workshops and seminars with guest experts, and oversaw and edited the staff-written guidelines document, which set forth environmental guidelines as applicable to New York’s particular building processes. The guidelines offer specific objectives, strategies, goals, benefits and deliverables for each phase and component of a building’s development to ensure increased operational efficiency, healthy building interiors and reduced environmental costs and impacts. The High Performance Building Guidelines were published in April of 1999 with the enthusiastic endorsement from both the Mayor and the Commissioner of the DDC. 

The Design Trust, its fellows, and DDC agreed to continue their partnership in order to guide the DDC through the critical first steps of implementation. This work was the focus of the second phase of the Design Trust project Implementing the High Performance Building Guidelines. 

For this phase, project fellows helped the DDC’s client agencies to understand the building-guidelines document and its implications for their own building programs. The fellows tailored the guidelines to each agency’s particular mission and needs and oversaw their application on selected capital projects scheduled for construction or renovation. 

The [High Performance Building] Guidelines outline strategies that can move us toward the goal of making New York an environmental prototype for the 21st Century.

Lou Tormenta, former Commissioner, NYC DDC


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