NYU-Poly Fulbright Scholar to Study and Lecture on the Psychology of Sustainable Design

The Fulbright Scholar Program awarded Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) Professor of Environmental Psychology Richard Elliot Wener a grant to lecture and conduct research on the psychology of sustainable design.

Much of the success or failure of a “green” building depends on the behavior of the people inside, according to Dr. Wener. His research attempts to improve design in order to encourage people to conserve resources.  The four-month grant will allow him to examine sustainable buildings in Germany and Austria and lecture at the Vienna University of Technology.

The ways people use a building are crucial to its success, according to Dr. Wener.  He cited a sustainable apartment building in the United States that his team is studying in which two identically sized households vary greatly in the amount of water and energy they use. The research will reveal why, and perhaps it will also yield clues as to how to change the apartment design to encourage sustainability.  Will easily accessible and highly visible recycling bins remind tenants not just to recycle but also to act responsibly and use less water in the shower, for example?

Apartment dwellers who choose to move into a sustainable building pose a different set of challenges than workers in green buildings who cannot chose their environment, Dr. Wener said.  But they, too, are frequently pleased by benefits of a well-run sustainable building.  He noted that there is evidence of fewer lost work days in green buildings with more daylight and reduced levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are usually emitted by carpet, furniture and cleaning fluids.

The young field of environmental psychology studies the interface between humans and their various environments in order to predict conditions that will enhance behavior.  As one of the early researchers in the field, Dr. Wener created a body of information on users’ reactions to mass transportation and factors that influence commuting stress. His earliest work focused on ways in which the environment of correctional institutions affected the attitude and behavior of staff and inmates.

Nearly three years ago, he began researching sustainable building design, working with a team at Rutgers University funded by National Science Foundation. As part of NYU-Poly’s expanding educational offerings on the subject, he has taught undergraduate classes such as Environmental Psychology, Psychology of Sustainability, The Design of Space Habitats and the Design of Cities.

Dr. Wener, a professor in NYU-Poly’s Humanities and Social Sciences Department, has been a member of the faculty at the Institute for 35 years.  He received his master of science degree and doctorate in environmental psychology from the University of Illinois and his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Wisconsin.

The prestigious Fulbright Scholarship Program is the U.S. government's flagship academic international exchange effort.



About Polytechnic Institute of New York University

Polytechnic Institute of New York University (formerly Polytechnic University), an affiliate of New York University, is a comprehensive school of engineering, applied sciences, technology and research, and is rooted in Polytechnic’s 156-year tradition of invention, innovation and entrepreneurship – i2e.

The institution, founded in 1854, is one of the nation’s oldest private engineering schools. In addition to its main campus at MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn, it offers programs at sites throughout the region and around the globe. NYU-Poly has centers in Long Island, Manhattan and Westchester County; globally, it has programs in Israel, China and will be an integral part of NYU's campus in Abu Dhabi opening in autumn 2010.