Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 70.76
Liaison Richard Johnson
Submission Date Oct. 13, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Rice University
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Richard Johnson
Director of Sustainability
Facilities Engineering and Planning
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Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Air & Climate?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Air & Climate:

The CEVE 307 "Energy and the Environment" class in the spring 2016 semester hosted three “Air, Climate, and Energy” forums in order to engage the Rice community in thinking about the issues related to the political, social, and scientific dimensions of climate change. Their work also included campus-focused energy projects, with proposals for steps to reduce carbon emissions.

The sustainability director co-taught CHBE 281 Engineering Solutions for Sustainable Communities during the spring 2014 semester. In that class, students calculated the carbon footprint of Rice's campus and submitted the report to the sustainability director. The class also develops strategies for reducing the university's carbon footprint and energy usage, with projects featuring on-site renewables, energy efficiency, and more.

A new class as of spring 2016, CEVE 323 Advanced Sustainable Design, enriched the CHBE 281 class’s carbon footprint analysis by considering Scope 3 emissions associated with food purchases along with proposed mitigation steps.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Buildings?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Buildings:

A class known as ARCH 313 Case Studies in Sustainable Design and its follow-up ARCH 322 Case Studies in Sustainability: Regenerative Repositioning of New and Existing Rice Campus Buildings takes project ideas from Facilities Engineering & Planning and uses Rice's campus as a focus area for students to implement those projects. Each project focuses on a sustainable aspect of the building such as energy or water use.

Rice’s Sustainability Director teaches a class known as SOCI 304 / ENST 302 Environmental Issues: Rice into the Future. In 2015, a student group from this class worked on a project to suggest sustainable design interventions for the renovation of Brown College, one of the older residential colleges on campus. Many of their recommendations were be implemented during the renovation during the summer of 2016.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Energy?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Energy:

A student group from CEVE 307 Energy and the Environment researched and developed a business plan for switching to LEDs both in the residential buildings and in outdoor lighting for the campus parking lots.

Students from the SOCI 304 / ENST 302 class conducted a project to learn the effect of building level energy dashboards. They hosted a competition between two residential colleges in order to see which college could reduce their energy consumption the most. Their overall goal was to see if the energy dashboards had an influence on students’ behavior.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Food & Dining?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Food & Dining:

The SOCI 304 / ENST 302 class partners with the Housing & Dining department to have Farmers Market meals, organic vs. conventional food taste tests and meat-lite Mondays (where meat alternatives are served in place of meat). The class also features a food panel, with representatives from Rice's housing and dining department (including chefs), the Rice University farmers' market, and vendors who sell at the market.

In spring 2016, CEVE 323 Advanced Sustainable Design, students attempted to calculate the carbon footprint of all food purchases in Fiscal Year 2015.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Grounds?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Grounds:

The EBIO 204 course called “Environmental Sustainability: The Design and Practice of Community Gardening” engages students by giving them hands-on experience in the three community gardens on campus. In the 2015-2016 year, efforts were directed toward creating compost to be used in these gardens. In coordination with the Urban Agriculture club, students used pre-consumer food waste from the serveries and coffee grounds from Rice Coffeehouse in their pilot composting projects.

Further, the Conservation Biology class used Rice's Harris Gully Natural Area as the focus of its group project work, and proposed the development of a pocket prairie in this area. The class delivered these recommendations to the leadership of the Lynn R. Lowrey Arboretum Committee, who then decided to follow the recommendations as part of its oversight of the landscape master planning effort for this basin.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Purchasing?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Purchasing:

The CEVE 323 Advanced Sustainable Design class in the spring of 2016 met with the Director of Procurement to learn about the Spend Analytics Platform developed by the Educational Advisory Board. The class did an initial investigation of the platform, but the students found that the data will need to be streamlined in order for valuable recommendations to be made. The same class also analysed purchases related to food procurement and suggested alternatives to reduce the campus carbon footprint.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Transportation?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Transportation:

With Houston’s bike-share program B-Cycle expanding to over 100 stations, including at least 5 new stations on the Rice campus, as well as a recent expansion of the METRO light rail system which is adjacent to Rice, there is growing interest in how to make these transportation options more accessible. A student team worked on a project as part of the MobilityHouston competition, and they proposed a plan to develop a single card that could be used to pay for both bike sharing and METRO services.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Waste?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Waste:

In fall 2015, a group of students from SOCI 304 / ENST 302 carried out food waste audits and brainstormed strategies for cutting the amount of waste. They made suggestions to the Environmental Club, which carried them out in the first ever Food Waste Competition at Rice, which was a successful venture in raising awareness among students.

Over the 2015-2016 year, students played a huge role in increasing the number of recycling bins around campus. Civil Engineering students conducted waste audits in phases—phase 1 included the residential and academic buildings, and phase 2 included the athletic facilities. With their work to demonstrate where recycling was inadequate, they were able to secure funding from the Rice Environmental Society, the sustainability office, and the Facilities Engineering and Planning department to purchase 367 new indoor bins. They documented both the environmental and financial impacts in order to justify the projects.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Water?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Water:

The sustainability director worked with the ENGI 120 class on a project to identify campus water leaks, and on another to improve the efficiency of irrigating campus trees.

The Rice Endowment for Sustainable and Environmental Technologies had many university toilets retrofitted with water conversing flush valves, a $20,000 project with a payback of less than two years. They also provided funding to a team from SOCI 304 / ENST 302 who had water bottle filling stations installed in several locations on campus. Another engineering team in a senior engineering design class created a smart irrigation system for one of the green roofs.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Coordination & Planning?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Coordination & Planning:

A team of students from ARCH 313 developed a report in consultation with FE&P staff on how to apply smart growth to Rice Blvd, a street on the north border of the Rice campus. Another team examined options for developing a safe crossing at the Main Street / Cambridge Street intersection, which connects the Rice campus with the north end of the Texas Medical Center.

Students also were the driving force in campus' sustainability policy- adopted by the Board of Trustees in March 2004 - as well as in the creation of the sustainability director's position, who directly interfaces with the university's senior administration.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
No

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Diversity & Affordability:
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Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Investment & Finance?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Investment & Finance:

Students in CEVE 302 conducted a survey of Rice's investment portfolio and made recommendations to the faculty to create a review committee with two spots for students. The Rice Management Company, which oversees Rice's endowment and investments, regularly assists faculty and student research by providing access to Rice-owned timber properties. Students in CHBE 281 studied biomass samples taken from Rice's 50,000 acre timber plantation in SW Louisiana for a biochar and carbon sequestration project.

The CEVE 323 class in spring 2016 discussed ways that students can advocate for endowment transparency.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Public Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Public Engagement:

A student project in ENST 302/SOCI 304 examined how to use online dashboards as a public engagement tool to manage building energy consumption. Through that same class, another project examined how Rice's student run businesses can include public engagement as part of an overall greening strategy.

Further, Rice is used in water and sustainability tours where members of the community can visit Rice to learn more about its sustainability or conservation efforts. The sustainability director regularly leads walking tours for the public.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Wellbeing & Work?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Wellbeing & Work:

The ARCH 313 class researched healthy working spaces including space temperature conditions that promoted comfort and productivity. This has subsequently led to the adoption of a space temperature conditions policy that regulates temperatures in working spaces. Another project from ARCH 322 examined how to improve the wellbeing of student athletes by proposing sustainable design changes to campus athletics facilities.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to other areas (e.g. arts & culture or technology)?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to other areas:

Rice's Sustainability Director co-authored a chapter in a book published on Stephen F. Austin State University Press called Teaching Sustainability. In this chapter, many of the student initiatives developed in the SOCI 304 / ENST 302 class that use the university as a living laboratory are discussed.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:
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