Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 65.35
Liaison Christa Rieck
Submission Date Nov. 23, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

University of Houston
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Gabriel Durham
Graduate assistant
Office of Sustainability
"---" 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 ---
Transportation Yes
Waste Yes
Water Yes
Coordination, Planning & Governance ---
Diversity & Affordability Yes
Health, Wellbeing & Work Yes
Investment ---
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:

A student team in the energy and sustainability minor estimated a greenhouse gas inventory for the University of Houston under the instruction of Dr. Barry Lefer in the department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. The data was continually disseminated via blog posts and website developed by the student team: http://uhcarbonfootprint.wix.com/uhcfp.

The final inventory data was incorporated in the current UH STARS report for the air and climate section and included on the UH sustainability website.
The team worked with senators in the Administration and Finance Senate Committee to draft a university bill that requested the university be accountable for an annual inventory and mitigating its greenhouse gases. Simultaneously, members of the group worked closely with the stakeholders that would be affected by this policy change to ensure that the future gathering of data would go smoothly.

The final draft of the university bill was presented to the Senate Floor at a Student Governance Association meeting held on April 23, 2014. Once it was introduced, the senate passed the measure unanimously. The bill has now been signed by the student body president and will soon be considered and potentially approved by the University of Houston president.


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:

A team of students is working with Facilities Management staff to document and describe the various contexts of campus buildings. The purpose of this effort is to create algorithms to control each building's HVAC with student and faculty input, which will improve heating and cooling efficiency at UH.


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:

Each semester the College of Hotel and Restaurant Management opens Barron's, a restaurant run by students under the management of Dr. Kristi Baker. The students order cook, serve, and run the establishment during a lab course from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Restaurant sustainability practices include ordering their products seasonally and incorporating sustainability in the curriculum. Additionally, all plasticware is eco-craft bioplastic. Positive outcomes include alumni of the Barron's lab practicing similar sustainability practices in their own restaurants, reducing waste at the university by recycling, and providing a sustainable learning environment.


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 student team is working with Facilities Management to explore possibilities of reclaiming the energy of the cooling tower airflows to create secondary energy for the University's Central Plant office areas. This will greatly improve energy efficiency for the university by adding cleaner secondary energy capture. A student team has constructed an Archimedes spiral blade, which is installed outside of the cooling tower and being used for wind energy.


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:

Students under the instruction of Office of Sustainability staff are actively reclaiming mulch that's produced by Grounds on campus to be used for an ongoing composting project in partnership with the community garden. This generates a necessary resource used in the campus garden and reduces waste generated by UH Grounds.


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:
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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:

Under the supervision of Office of Sustainability staff, a student developed a campus bike survey, which has been filled out by 1788 students, faculty, and staff. The data from this survey will be used to construct a bike survey evaluation and recommendations. This survey assessed the campus climate for bikers, including recommendations and challenges. The completion of the final report will actuate campus biking improvements for the institution and surrounding community. Current positive outcomes are a continually expanding climate of bike awareness and participation.


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:

Facilities Management installed 68 water bottle filling stations in 2013. Presently students are involved in a project to create a raspberry pi solution to wirelessly track bottle fill data. Reduced plastic waste is a major positive outcome already evident from this project.


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:

A separate team of students is also working under the guidance of Facilities Management to explore a fuel cell solution to eliminate one boiler in the Central Plant and replace it with a fuel cell sized to overcome the steam load while providing 480 volt power to the Central Plant grid. This will reduce the university's water use in the removal of the boiler and increase energy efficiency.


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:

The Sustainability Task Force, established in 2009, is a collection of university staff, faculty, and students that are actively engaged in coordination, planning and governance. The task force is charged with developing and implementing campus sustainability strategies and policies, instituting monitoring mechanisms for sustainable practices. Positive outcomes from this task force include the completion of this report, and the facilitation of many of the other living labs outlined in this section.


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:

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) Ambassador program promotes the University's commitment to diversity and the creation of a global learning community. They help bring individuals and groups of students together to engage with and learn from one another. Ambassadors have multiple opportunities to develop foundational leadership skills and refine personal and professional strengths. After attending a three-hour learning intensive orientation, ambassadors are fully prepared to represent the CDI mission of diversity and understanding. A year long appointment, ambassador job responsibilities include attending CDI meetings, representing CDI at other departmental meetings, creating and maintaining a positive and educational social media presence, and educating the campus about diversity and inclusion values.

Positive outcomes include general office and intercultural experience training for CDI ambassadors, campus networking, and increased intercultural competence for the campus as a whole.


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 2012, a doctoral candidate in the college of education studied female UH students to assess family factors in body weight, eating disorders, and healthy behaviors. This study was able to assess cultural factors that can lead to eating disorder symptoms in college women. Positive outcomes from this study include a improved literature on the cultural health disparities and a better understanding of UH women in particular.


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:
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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:

In the Office of Sustainability, students under the supervision of the program manager actively engage the public through social media, outreach, the attending of meetings and events, and partner with local organizations. Positive outcomes are manifold including donating produce to food pantries located in food deserts, a sustainability blog, a monthly sustainability newsletter, and project collaborations with Houston sustainability organizations.


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:

Facilities Management is working with several faculty members and student teams in the areas of Central Plant optimization, big data, building optimization systems, portable building control apps, and raspberry pi applications.


The website URL where information about the institution’s campus as a living laboratory program or projects is available:
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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 or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.