About us

The Environmental Simulations Center (ESC) staff of planners, urban designers, and architects provide innovative place- and performance-based planning, urban design, and regulatory solutions through the design, development and application of digital tools that enhance decision-making. We have led the development of 3D-GIS and sophisticated performance-based systems and regulations, as well as the design and development of CommunityViz® for the Orton Family Foundation, the first GIS-based planning and design decision support software to fully integrate virtual reality with scenario planning, impact analyses, and policy simulation that is linear and non-hierarchical. CommunityViz® is currently being used by communities across the country.

The ESC recognizes that our cities and towns are complex systems – constantly changing environments in an interrelated world. It has pioneered the practice of planning in an information-rich, interactive computing environment, and continues to develop decision-support techniques and applications that enable planning and development decision-making to be informed, targeted, up-to-date, and “just in time”. We have demonstrated that new applications of information technology enable planners and decision-makers to account for and evaluate change as it occurs, making for plans, regulations, and policies that can learn and self-adapt over time.

At the ESC, solutions to complex planning and design issues are needs and application-driven rather than technologically-driven. Technology serves as a means to an end – not an end in itself.  The many technological advances that the ESC has made are relevant only because they were developed in the real-world of planning and designing places for people.

The Environmental Simulation Center was established at the New School for Social Research in 1991 by Michael Kwartler, FAIA, with the support of the J.M. Kaplan and Warhol Foundations.  Since 1997, the ESC has been an independent not-for-profit, and is the only facility of its kind in New York City, and one of only several worldwide.