Overall Rating Expired
Overall Score Expired
Liaison Tavey Capps
Submission Date Feb. 25, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Duke University
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete Expired Tavey Capps
Environmental Sustainability Director
Office of the Executive Vice President
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Is the institution utilizing the campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in the following areas?:
Yes or No
Air & Climate Yes
Buildings Yes
Dining Services/Food Yes
Energy Yes
Grounds Yes
Purchasing Yes
Transportation Yes
Waste Yes
Water Yes
Coordination, Planning & Governance Yes
Diversity & Affordability ---
Health, Wellbeing & Work Yes
Investment Yes
Public Engagement Yes
Other Yes

A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Air & Climate and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Since 1931, the Duke Forest has provided research opportunities for Duke University faculty and students in the fields of forestry, botany, zoology, and environmental science. Today the Forest is also used by local universities, as well as universities and institutions across the country, to study natural resource, environmental, ecological, and earth science issues. These include both short and long-term research projects covering such diverse topics as plant ecology, invertebrate zoology, forest economics, and global climate change.

The Duke Forest near Durham, NC, is home to a range of free-air carbon enrichment (FACE) experiments that are helping to answer questions about how forests adapt to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and the effects of those adaptations on how and where trees store, or sequester, carbon.

Currently, there are two weather stations collecting data on the Duke Forest, both located in the Blackwood Division in Orange County. Data can be downloaded from these stations, dating back to 2000.

More on outcomes of research can be found here: http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/compass/issue10/expforests.htm


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Buildings and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

The goal of the Duke Smart Home Program is to offer a research and educational program that emphasizes energy efficient, sustainable and ‘smarter’ living. Smarter living is defined as using technology for automation in a way that encourages behavior we want and need to achieve our values of energy efficient, sustainable living. The program operates and manages The Home Depot Smart Home as an evolving resource purposefully used to inform our ideas about sustainable, energy efficient, smart living.

The Duke Smart Home Program offers numerous opportunities for Duke students to pursue independent research and implementation projects on sustainability, energy efficiency, quality of life and home technology.

The Smart Home's goal is to provide the resources, guidance and infrastructure to move as many projects—whether for-credit or non-credit, student or faculty generated—through the design process and to an install ready stage. The design process is defined as a progress from an idea to planning, to developing a proof of concept, to building actual prototypes, to achieving an install-ready technology. The overarching goal is to install at least one student/faculty-derived technology in the smart home dorm each year.

Examples of successful student projects can be found here: http://smarthome.duke.edu/research


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Dining Services/Food and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

A 2014 Master's Project from a student at the Nicholas School of the Environment titled "Sustainable Food Sourcing in Higher Education: Definition and Goal-Setting for Duke University" helped to establish definitions of sustainable food at Duke. This study used semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and collection of material culture to evaluate Duke University’s current sustainable food procurement initiatives and to research how peer institutions create and track progress towards sustainable food goals. Based on this research, the student researcher recommended a definition of sustainable food for Duke University in six product categories. The research also gives broad guidelines for “best practices” in setting and maintaining sustainable sourcing goals in dining services.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Energy and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

A 2014 Master's Project from students at the Nicholas School of the Environment titled "Duke University Health System Demand Response Prospectus" explored the profitability and environmental impacts of enrolling Duke University Health System and Duke University into Duke Energy’s PowerShare demand response program. Student researchers analyzed the economic, environmental, and regulatory feasibility of using Duke University and Duke Medicine emergency generators in a Duke Energy demand response program called PowerShare, more specifically the Generator Curtailment Option. Duke Carbon Offset Initiative credits, a Duke University funding mechanism to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, were also considered as a potential revenue source. In order to conduct the analysis, an MS Excel and Visual Basic model was created to calculate the impacts of enrollment. The model provided to the client was designed to offer an easy user interface to quickly conduct the analyses. It was also specially designed to offer the flexibility to incorporate future changes in the energy market and user preferences.

The model results indicated that, while feasible, demand response enrollment is not currently attractive from environmental and financial perspectives. From an environmental perspective, PowerShare is also not a favorable option. Instead of offering a carbon emissions reduction opportunity, PowerShare participation is actually expected to increase the amount of global carbon emissions because Duke University generators emit more carbon than Duke Energy’s natural gas peak usage plants.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Grounds and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

In 2014 a student team in the course ENV 245: Theory and Practice of Sustainability completed a client-based project titled "Natural Resource Management: Save Our Trees! Battling the Cankerworms". The project client was Duke's Natural Resource Manager, from the grounds team of Facilities Management at Duke. Cankerworms are native pests that have reached epidemic levels likely due to a combination of climate change, elderly trees in Durham, and a decline in migratory bird species. To control this issue, citizens put sticky bands on their trees to catch the moths before they lay their eggs. Currently, the city, county and Duke are working together to put on workshops to educate the public, and to get students to help band trees.

Outcomes of the project included: A strategy for recruiting students to help band trees on campus, and how to reach people in the surrounding community, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the information session, including information about what people knew before the sessions verses after, and if the sessions were helpful.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Purchasing and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

A 2013 Master's Project from students at the Nicholas School of the Environment titled "Sustainable Duke: Procurement & Waste" explored the effectiveness of Duke’s current sustainable procurement policies and practices through website information review and interviews. Additionally, the students investigated the widely varying sustainable procurement approaches used by thirty other institutions of higher education to evaluate their relative merits. The student team recommended that Duke move to a more centralized purchasing system and proposed several suggestions to promote sustainable purchasing which have been taken under consideration by the Procurement department at Duke.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Transportation and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

A 2014 Master's Project from a student at the Nicholas School of the Environment titled "An Environmental and Economic Analysis of Converting Duke University’s Police Fleet to Alternatively Powered Vehicles" analyzed the possibility for Duke University’s Police fleet to serve as a visible platform for demonstrating progress toward the University’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2024. By working with the Duke University’s Police Department and Duke’s Sustainability Office, an in-depth analysis of fleet characteristics and officer needs was performed with the intention of identifying suitable alternatively fueled or powered replacement fleet vehicles. By focusing on minimizing lifetime costs, annual fuel costs, and lifetime carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, multiple vehicles and technologies have shown the potential to reduce lifetime fuel costs by over $100,000 and lifetime GHG emissions by 200 tons. Duke University Police have since begun to alter their vehicle purchases, beginning with an electric recumbent bicycle produced locally from Organic Transit.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Waste and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

A 2014 Master's Project from a student at the Nicholas School of the Environment titled "Rethinking the Supply Chain: Uncovering Value with a Zero Waste-to-Landfill Initiative at Wallace Wade Football Stadium" informed a waste free football program that was launched at Duke in Fall 2014. The program led to a waste diversion rate of as high as 65% from stadium and tailgate areas during its pilot season.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Water and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

In the summer of 2013, Duke started construction on a $9 million reclamation pond that will sit on a 12-acre site on campus. This pond will provide a place for education and research while also providing approximately 100 million gallons of nonpotable water for use in the campus chilled water plant. The pond, started purely as a utility initiative to save potable water in the campus chilled water system, has expanded to an educational and recreational amenity for campus.

In 2013, a student team in the course ENV 245: Theory and Practice of Sustainability completed a client-based project titled "More than Utility: educational, recreational, and research uses of the new Duke Water Reclamation Pond". Students on this team examined how Duke could balance the potentially competing and interdependent uses of this facility and measure its impact over time. How could Duke balance the ecosystem, educational, recreational and utility aspects of the Duke Water Reclamation Pond? How does a campus create a healthy, functional ecosystem while providing a necessary resource for campus education and utilities? Students researched other similar projects such as the Dells at UVA to see how peer institutions have tackled these questions. They also considered the broader implication of the Pond in Duke’s stormwater management system and the local watershed. Students worked with clients to develop educational materials for the Pond to develop the “story” of this place on campus and to provide insight into the numerous benefits it provides to Duke. The students suggested creating an educational website, producing an informational video, and proposed topics for information signs. They produced a prototype of the website and video.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Coordination, Planning & Governance and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Student research and course integration has consistently been a part of sustainability planning and governance at Duke University. For example, in 2014 a student team in the course ENV 245: Theory and Practice of Sustainability completed a client-based project titled, "What type of innovative carbon offset projects are other ACUPCC schools undertaking and what can Duke University learn from these projects?". The project's client was the program manager of the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative. The Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative (DCOI) manages multiple projects that generate carbon offsets for the University including a swine waste-to-energy system and an energy efficiency employee benefit program. DCOI asked the student team to explore potential future projects for the University by researching what other ACUPCC schools have accomplished. Some questions the students answered include:
1. What ACUPCC schools are closest to reaching carbon neutrality?
2. What types of projects are these schools developing?
3. How could we compare expense, innovation, ease of management, benefits (social, educational, economic)?
By exploring these questions, the ENV 245 team provided valuable information that helped DCOI determine what types of offset projects to pursue in the future.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Diversity & Affordability and the positive outcomes associated with the work:
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A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Health, Wellbeing & Work and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

In fall 2014, the Duke Campus Farm served as a client for a student team in the ENV 245: Theory and Practice of Sustainability course. This project include an additional client, a Duke employee who works in the Health System with a particular interest in the role medicinal herbs can play in health and wellness. With the guidance of the clients, the student team researched, developed, and cultivated a herb garden at the Duke Campus Farm, with a special emphasis on medicinal herbs. The students determined what kinds of herbs would bring the most benefit to the farm, and best sustain the human, animal, and plant ecologies that the farm supports. The Duke employee provided guidance to the team in a mutually beneficial relationship that strengthened the knowledge of both the students and employees, plus provided a hands-on outdoor reprieve from daily work and study responsibilities.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Investment and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

In 2011 and 2012 teams of Master's students from the Nicholas School of the Environment explored the financial viability of investing in Blue Carbon projects to generate carbon offsets for Duke University. The 2012 project titled "Business Plan for a Blue Carbon Project" created a business plan to outline a project for Duke Carbon Offset Initiative (DCOI) to engage in an innovative offset category, Blue Carbon. DCOI’s goal is to assist the university in meeting its 2024 objective of becoming carbon neutral. While the campus has made significant strides in reducing energy use and increasing efficiency, there are some emissions of CO2 and other green house gasses (GHG) that cannot feasibly be eliminated. For these sources, Duke University has begun exploring and developing carbon offset projects across North Carolina. This Blue Carbon project evaluated the potential for DCOI to become involved in a fast developing and newly identified offset site on the NC coastline. DCOI continues to monitor the viability of a Blue Carbon project while comparing the financial investment with offset projects in a variety of other categories.


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory for Public Engagement and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

A 2014 group Master's Project from students at the Nicholas School of the Environment titled "Energy Efficiency Carbon Offsets" with the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative as a client, explored engaging the Duke and Durham communities in developing carbon offsets for Duke University through home energy efficiency projects. The group of three Nicholas School of the Environment Master’s candidates prepared a program for DCOI to implement energy efficiency measures in the homes of Duke community members faculty, staff and students, and generate carbon offsets. This program will aid Duke in achieving its carbon neutrality goal by reducing off campus carbon emissions.

Duke University aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2024 by a combination of efforts to reduce on campus energy consumption and off campus carbon offset generation. One of the offset options that DCOI is evaluating is energy efficiency retrofits in residential buildings leading to indirect emission reductions. The problem we have attempted to address in our project is how Duke University can identify potential carbon offset opportunities in terms of improving energy efficiency in homes and businesses and how these offsets can be verified and quantified.

In order to determine the feasibility of energy efficiency carbon offsets the team started with evaluating data from a similar residential retrofitting project implemented by the City of Durham’s Sustainability Office. The pre and post retrofit energy consumption data from these houses was analyzed to determine the energy savings and resultant carbon emissions reduction. The average emission reduction obtained from this project was then used to determine the carbon price. This carbon price was used to conduct a comparative analysis with carbon prices found in the market, literature and regulations. The second step of the project involved studying energy efficiency retrofit projects that have been undertaken in other regions at various levels and sizes. The last question that this project aimed to answer for DCOI was regarding the suitability of various financing mechanisms for the retrofitting project. In order to address this question a demand assessment survey was designed to determine the willingness of Duke employees to participate in such a program and pay for the retrofits.

This research has led to several ongoing pilot rounds of energy efficiency projects in employee homes. Read more: http://today.duke.edu/2015/01/homeenergy


A brief description of how the institution is using the campus as a living laboratory in Other areas and the positive outcomes associated with the work:

Through an arts festival focused on environmental issues and direct research and course collaborations, Duke is using the campus as a living laboratory to understand the intersection of environment and the arts. In 2013 a student team in the course ENV 245: Theory and Practice of Sustainability completed a client-based project titled, "How can students, faculty, and a local environmental artist produce a piece of sustainable art in a public space on Duke’s campus?"

Duke’s commitment to climate neutrality and sustainability includes a promise to take actions that infuse these topics into the curriculum and other educational experience for all students. The Education Subcommittee of the Campus Sustainability Committee wishes to move sustainability more explicitly into disciplines less likely to be traditionally connected with this concept, such as arts and arts education. Therefore, through funding provided by the Duke Council for the Arts, and in collaboration with local environmental artist Bryant Holsenbeck, are Art faculty Bill Fick, a team of students designed “Bottlefall,” a piece of public art made from bioplastic beverage bottles, gained approval for temporary installation on campus, and installed it in the CIEMAS lobby of the Pratt School of Engineering. Creating art with found objects allows many to participate in the creative process by collecting materials that will form the installation. Participants become part of a dynamic, relevant, and contemporary form of art making. Further, making art out of “stuff” we usually throw away or recycle empowers us, both with knowledge and with an intrinsic internal awareness of the volume we produce and the importance of considering relevant behavior change. Finally, materials costs are reduced as a result of sourcing disposed or recycled materials. For this project, the team also developed a handbook documenting useful steps and resources for creating art in public spaces on Duke’s campus.


The website URL where information about the institution’s campus as a living laboratory program or projects is available:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.