Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 68.50
Liaison Derek Nichols
Submission Date May 17, 2022

STARS v2.2

University at Buffalo
IN-49: Innovation C

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 0.50 / 0.50 Erin Moscati
Environmental Educator
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
GRoW Clean Energy Education Center

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:

The GRoW (Garden, Relax, or Work) Clean Energy Center was developed to educate and engage the campus and surrounding Western New York community in UB’s sustainability programs and goals. The Center is situated on the edge of the 3,200-panel UB Solar Strand, which was designed by internationally renowned artist and landscape architect Walter Hood. The Solar Strand lines the Flint Road entrance to North Campus and serves as a visual gateway, integrating natural beauty with engineering innovation and environmental sustainability. The GRoW Clean Energy Center has been placed at the corner of this site, which serves as a main entrance to campus and will act as a beacon for curious passersby and intentional visitors.

UB’s North Campus is the site of most of the university’s core academic programs and home to 11 residence halls, five apartment complexes, the Student Union, the Center for the Arts performance space and UB Stadium. UB North Campus is bustling with activity and the addition of the GRoW Clean Energy Center will meet a specific need related to our commitment to achieve climate neutrality by 2030 by showcasing conservation strategies, connecting visitors with educational resources and demonstrating how to practice clean energy and sustainable behaviors.

The GRoW CEC is a repurposed building, originally designed by students as UB’s submission to the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. After the 2015 competition the building was dismantled and re-built near UB’s School of Architecture and Planning. However, the long term goal was to permanently re-locate the building adjacent to the Solar Strand in order to provide a physical space for the campus and greater community to participate in programming and learn to incorporate sustainability into their lives. In order to accomplish this objective, the building needed to be deconstructed and physically transported three miles, which was no small task. A team consisting of architecture professors and students, professional architects and engineers and sustainability professionals came together to plan and execute this undertaking. It took over three years of planning for the project to be finalized. During the process students designed alternative layouts, researched sustainable solutions to infrastructure and were educated about building codes and the importance of designing to meet budgets.

The GRoW CEC was sited during the summer of 2020, but the project was not finished until the fall of 2021, when the campus community returned to in-person learning after a year of remote leaning. GRoW CEC has become an intimate space for professors to bring classes, and UB Sustainability to host workshops and lectures.

In order for the GRoW Clean Energy Center to flourish and be integrated into the UB community, it is important the building be seen as a university resource available to all. Through partnerships with the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the School of Management, the School of Architecture and Planning and others, the GRoW Clean Energy Center is being used to host class lectures and discussions, workshops, field studies, and community events such as guest lectures and private receptions. In addition, the space has been made available to student clubs advocating and practicing sustainability such as the Architecture Graduate Student Association, the American Student Dental Association’s Sustainability Club, the Graduate Planning Student Association, Engineers for a Sustainable World, Alpha Kappa Chi, Environmental Network, Outdoor Adventure Club, Blue Table, Hired, Food Recovery Network and others.

Welcoming off-campus groups to visit and use the GRoW CEC also ensures greater engagement with the Center, as it strengthens the town and gown connection with UB’s North Campus. Through partnerships with groups such as the Western New York Sustainable Business Roundtable, the Western New York Environmental Alliance, NYSERDA and the NY Power Authority, GObike Buffalo, Dare to Repair Café Buffalo, The Tool Library and many others we are exposing our students and faculty to sustainable business and thought leaders, creating opportunities for collaboration and community growth.

Equally important is using the GRoW Clean Energy Center to support informal, recurring opportunities to bond over shared experiences and values. Leveraging the GRoW Clean Energy Center as a location for a weekly Community Supported Agriculture pick-up on campus is an excellent way to ensure the space is known, used and valued by the community, and will provide a convenient way to expose the campus community to local farmers while highlighting the importance of supporting local agriculture. A natural extension of this will be to host hands-on workshops related to native plants, gardening, canning and food storage. Hosting a combination of service-based events with traditional teaching/learning opportunities at the GRoW Clean Energy Center will provide people with a way to consistently connect with sustainability initiatives on the campus, and authentically ensure the space is associated with sustainability. These types of informal learning and skill building experiences will also be of interest to not only students, but community. Working with partners to host recurring events is an easy way to attract a diverse population to the GRoW Clean Energy Center and keep them coming back and build community.

Not only is the GRoW Clean Energy Center visually different from all other physical spaces on campus, the building was designed and functions in a completely unique way. Sharing the history of the space’s design, transition, and functionality to the GRoW Clean Energy Center is an important part of UB’s sustainability story and commitment to clean, renewable energy. The Center demonstrates that designing and operating a net-zero building in Buffalo is possible and allows visitors to experience how comfortable and welcoming such a space can be for building occupants.

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :

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

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