Esther Greenhouse
Esther Greenhouse
Lecturer/Built Environment Strategist
Human Centered Design

MVR 1427


Esther Greenhouse is a unique professional.  She is an environmental gerontologist, a designer, and a built environment strategist.  A nationally recognized expert in Universal Design and Aging in Place, her focus has expanded to include multigenerational community planning--a key approach to creating successful Age-Friendly Communities.

An award-winning and enthusiastic instructor and speaker, she advises clients to view enabling design as a missing variable in public health, infrastructure, and social services.  This is key to enabling greater independence and well-being.  A catalyst for change, Ms. Greenhouse applies the Enabling Design Approach in her work with communities as they evolve to meet the needs of both seniors and younger generations. 

Ms. Greenhouse has served on the American Planning Association’s Aging in Community Policy Guide Task Force, co-authoring the Housing, Zoning, and Transportation sections, has written portions of the Livable NY Resource Manual, and teaches the NAHB/AARP Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) courses (for which she was awarded CAPS of the Year).  Her innovative perspective has resulted in invitations to contribute to the book Independent for Life, the 4-part PBS series “Design for a Lifetime”, and the design of the nation’s first elder-focused emergency department.   She has designed private residences, and her latest endeavors include serving as an industry scholar for the Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures.

At Cornell University, she was the first design student to pursue the Gerontology certificate, and has worked as a research associate in the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging (CITRA).  Ms. Greenhouse’s B.S., M.S., and doctoral studies were in the departments of Design & Environmental Analysis and City & Regional Planning at Cornell University.  She is a lecturer in the Department of Environmental Analysis and an industry fellow in the Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures.

Firestone, S., Keyes, L., and Greenhouse, E. (2018) "Planners and aging professionals collaborate for livable communities", Working with Older People,Vol. 22 Issue: 1, pp.20-29, 

Greenhouse, E. "Challenging the Status Quo."  Planning, Feb. 2018.

Greenhouse, E., "The Home Environment and Aging", ch. 7, pp. 88-97; in Cisneros, H., Dyer-Camberlin, M., and Hickie, J. (2012) Independent for Life: Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging America; University of Texas Press.

Greenhouse, E. S. (2012). Human-centered design. In Livable New York Resource Manual.

Ghazaleh, R. A., Greenhouse, E., Homsy, G. C., & Warner, M. (2011). Using smart growth and universal design to link the needs of children and the aging populationAPA Briefing Paper.

Warner, M., Homsy, G., & Greenhouse, E. (2010). Multi-generational community planning: Linking the needs of children and older adultsDepartment of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University.

Forsyth, Ann, et al. "Residential environments for older Americans and their sustainability: From the room to the region." 

Greenhouse, E. S. (2003). The impact of improved lighting on minimizing environmental press associated with the visual deficits of Alzheimer''s Disease. Cornell University, August.


Esther Greenhouse''s professional purpose is to create a paradigm shift whereby society views enabling design as a missing variable in public health.  The first step is understanding that the built environment impacts functioning and well-being no matter how well or how poorly it is designed.  The second step is acknowledging the status quo of the built environment is not benign as it has not been designed with respect to the age- and ability-continua.

Reviewer, Health Environments Research & Design

Executive Council, AARP NY.

Co-creator, Livable Communities for All Ages Summit, American Planning Association and American Society on Aging.

Age-Friendly Ithaca & Tompkins, Founding Member, Steering Committee.


DEA 3770 Enabling Design for Aging (FA '18)

DEA 3530 Planning and Managing the Workplace

DEA 4500 Policy Meets Design

DEA 301 Junior Design Studio


B.S. Interior Design, Design & Environmental Analysis, Cornell University

M.S. Applied Research in Human Environment Relations, Design & Environmental Analysis, Cornell University

Doctoral Studies, Human Behavior & Design, Design & Environmental Analysis; City & Regional Planning, Cornell University

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