Marvel's Approach to An Environmentally Conscious and Resilient Practice

Ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, the team at Marvel wanted to share our support for strengthening and accelerating climate change policy to meet our environmental challenges.

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20180308_124751 · Marvel's Approach to An Environmentally Conscious and Resilient Practice
29 Oct 2021 Research, All, News

We are continuing to find ways to support an environmentally conscious and resilient practice, and employ a holistic approach to sustainability that concentrates on three key areas: Energy, Materials and Resources, and Wellness and Community. In doing so we can help determine what strategies are available to a given project while integrating these measures to maximum. As a multidisciplinary firm, Marvel’s expertise in architecture, landscape design, urban design, and interior design allows our work to embrace efficient use of materials and resources across all our disciplines. 


Northeast Bronx YMCA energy model

Marvel’s approach to efficiency encompasses a wide range of strategies, from materials usage and insulation performance to renewable energy production. The Northeast Bronx YMCA and DDC-Bronx Animal Care are targeting LEED Gold certification, which is awarded to buildings that demonstrate efforts to create healthy, liveable, and sustainable spaces.

100 Throop Corners is a 140-unit affordable housing facility designed to Passive House principles and currently undergoing PHIUS+ 2018 certification. It features a highly-insulated and tightly sealed envelope and is an exclusively electric building. 

Single aspect simulations and whole building performance simulations are used at key stages of the design process to reduce energy use, while optimizing the performance of the building, balancing initial costs with operational savings in the long run. 

Daylight analysis of DDC-Bronx Animal Care helps determine spaces that require shading or light regulation and potential for solar gains. This process will help yield energy savings of 46%.

Wherever possible, we introduce clean on-site power generation in the form of solar and wind power. These additions can offer increased resilience and lower operational costs. With Resilient Power Puerto Rico, an architect-led effort to confront the humanitarian crisis in the wake of Hurricane María, we established solar hubs at community centers. These solar arrays can support critical building functionality, running lighting, refrigeration, water filtration, and ventilation systems, and provide important resilience as infrastructure failure and extreme climate events become more frequent.  

The typical solar hub installation was composed of 20 solar panels, 20 microinverters, two lithium-ion battery-inverter systems, a gateway, and the necessary cable connections. This system can provide 5 to 6 kW of electricity and around 20 kWhr of energy storage.  


Embodied carbon that comes from sourced and manufactured materials can contribute greatly to the efficiency of a building, as can creating thermal envelopes that limit energy consumption through artificial heating or cooling. 

1 Java, a residential development on the Brooklyn waterfront, is targeting LEED Gold and Fitwel certifications. Utilizing life cycle assessment, Marvel anticipates reducing embodied carbon emissions by tracking material productivity throughout manufacture, construction, and operation. Analysis of these findings will be important for showcasing project results and developing new strategies for future structures. 

We can also study how the landscape is not only beautiful but supports and contributes to local biodiversity and ecological health over time, while minimizing resource use through low maintenance and water use strategies. The implementation can vary greatly by project and location, but development of plans for recapturing and reprocessing stormwater, greywater, and blackwater, and mitigating runoff through permeability greatly increases resilience. 

The revitalization of El Portal Visitor's Center in Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Forest will serve as a beautiful destination for learning and incorporates sustainable design throughout. Targeting LEED Silver certification, El Portal’s rainwater management design mimics El Yunque's natural hydrology, directing rainwater into a series of interconnected rain gardens. On the interior, El Portal was retrofitted to be over 50% more energy efficient than the original building. Building walls, roofs, windows, lighting, and air conditioning systems and controls meet or exceed energy efficiency codes, and all restroom and kitchen fixtures are low-flush and low flow, saving an estimated 300,000 gallons of water per year. Upon completion, El Portal will once again celebrate the island's unique forest heritage, as well as the hundreds of animal and plant species that are only found in Puerto Rico. 


Marvel is focused on creating efficient, resilient projects, with design centered around enhancing user experience and limiting climate impact. Walkability, human-scaled design and alternative transportation promotes more inclusive and equitable spaces. Emphasis is placed on access to daylight, natural ventilation and quality views, while ensuring thermal and acoustic performance and comfort.  

In order to ensure long-term efficacy, Marvel studies design possibilities that can reinforce resilience and health through flexibility and adaptability. We are conscious of current and future risk profiles and survivability inherent to each site, community and users. Bronx Point, a WEDG-certified waterfront landscape on the Harlem River, reconnects the neighborhood to the waterfront, creating much needed active space, while additionally integrating flood mitigation measures to protect against future climate change. 

Waterfront projects, like Bronx Point, take into account flood elevation and future risks.

New landscapes and vision plans are used to thoughtfully balance safety, accessibility and utility. Marvel’s comprehensive vision for the Union Square district in New York aims to safely expand the perceived and physical public space of the park, and promote the lively and culturally expressive public spaces. The transformation of Union Square West to a pedestrianized corridor will connect an evolving Broadway on the north to University Place in the south and supports a more functional square for occupation, loading and safe circulation for the beloved Green Market. The vision builds on DOT’s conversion of 14th Street into a dedicated busway as well as the Broadway Vision Plan, thereby weaving the district’s urban streetscape into the City’s larger goals.   

For the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanic Garden vision plan, located on Staten Island, significant measures were taken to improve the health and wellness of campus users and their environment. Activation of historic assets will improve user experience, address infrastructural issues, generate public benefit, and enhance cultural and economic impact to the north shore of Staten Island. Re-inventing the large open spaces as a productive and ecological landscape will expand the educational programming and community events offerings for the neighborhood and beyond. A pedestrianized central spine will become the hub and main touchpoint for visitors, improving the visitor experience and enhancing public safety.   

Snug Harbor is uniquely positioned to leverage its status as a community hub for Staten Island and a cultural destination for New York City by becoming an attractive sustainability icon for both the public and the city agencies – potentially as the first LEED v4 ND-certified municipal campus in NYC. 

Climate change is accelerating, and we at Marvel believe we all owe it to future generations to treat every project as an opportunity for real climate leadership; not only will it serve the future biome, but it can save clients money while ultimately making for happier, healthier, more resilient, vibrant communities.  

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