Overall Rating Expired
Overall Score Expired
Liaison Jim Walker
Submission Date April 30, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

University of Texas at Austin
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete Expired Alice Gerhart
Program Coordinator, Academics
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 Yes
Diversity & Affordability Yes
Health, Wellbeing & Work Yes
Investment Yes
Public Engagement ---
Other ---

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:

Students working with faculty focused on indoor air quality research are engaged in a UT Austin project aimed at reducing the amount of air exchangers needed in an effort to save money and energy in the Biomedical Engineering building on campus, which houses many research laboratories. The analysis will also consist of analyzing the air quality in the BME building due to the reduction of ventilators.


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:

Construction of the Student Activity Center (SAC) at The University of Texas at Austin was completed January 2011. The building incorporates enhanced thermal energy technologies for space and process cooling, heating, and ventilation. However, examination of billing data suggests that the actual energy performance of the building fails to meet design expectations. In this project, the Mechanical Engineering Senior Design Group (final course required to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering) investigates energy use in the SAC, evaluates the performance with respect to original design models, and offers cost- effective design recommendations to improve energy efficiency.


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:

UT Austin’s Division of Housing and Food Service (DHFS) uses its campus gardens, built and operated by the division, as living laboratory at multiple levels. The gardens were designed, first and foremost, as a teaching platform for campus – the goal of which is to give students the opportunity to reconnect with where their food comes from and have the ability to see the details of that process from start to finish. Additionally, the gardens serve not only as a visual learning center, but also as an experiential education site for a select group of Green Corp students chosen to manage the gardens year around. Further, DHFS is always open to class tours, presentations, and sharing its practices with the campus community.


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:

UT Austin's Power Down Assessment program, a volunteer program that offers personal energy audits of people’s spaces, has been restructured so that it is a training program for student volunteers who then go out into the campus community to do the audits. We have a formal training session with the students and manual for them to follow. Student volunteer workers interface with staff and experience implementing a plug load audit, gaining important hands-on real-world communication and technical skills. In addition, they are “giving back” to the institution by bringing awareness to campus.


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:

Two Environmental Science seniors focused their project on replacing the existing landscaping and irrigation in two recessed rectangular plots located in the East Plaza of UT Austin’s Harry Ransom Center. The new landscape was more accessible, maintained its local drainage basin, featured optimal plant species and a new irrigation system specifically designed to efficiently meet sustainable watering requirements.


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:

As part of a Safe Cycling Campaign, students created a comprehensive and cross-disciplinary effort to improve bicycling as a viable means of transit on the UT Campus. The project worked to address the issues related to cycling and transportation infrastructure not only through analysis and improvements to the urban form, but also though safety education and public awareness, as well as service and advocacy projects. A lasting component of the program is the “How to Double Lock Your Bike” instructional video, used to educate the UT community on safe bike practices.


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:

Dr. Robert Young's Resource Management and Recycling: Toward Zero Waste and Beyond graduate level Community and Regional Planning course is focused on UT Austin's waste stream and zero-waste goals. Final projects will focus on different aspects of UT Austin's material and resource management challenges to elucidate best practices in the field and apply them in a real-world context. UT Austin's Zero-Waste Coordinator is working to shape learning objectives and outcomes.


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:

UT Austin’s new Integrated Landscape Design Program provides irrigation usage information to students in the Sustainable Design program. Students analyze the data and find landscape beds on campus that are using more water than other areas. A competition is held to incentivize a redesign of the landscape for water conservation and sustainability. Once the design is chosen by a committee of UT landscaping staff, faculty, and students, the design is installed, also with student help. The program is overseen by a Project Manager student position as well as the university’s Irrigation and Water Conservation Coordinator.


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:

A graduate student at the LBJ School of Public Policy focused his Professional Report on “Assessing UT Austin’s Roadmap to Sustainability,” providing a strategic plan with recommendations to UT Austin’s administration on how to become a more sustainable institution in terms of reducing emissions and waste and setting goals among the university’s governance, academics, and operations over the next several decades.


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 Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE), as one of the four strategic priorities for the campus, is tasked with leveraging UT’s intellectual resources to cultivate mutually beneficial partnerships that address significant issues in Texas communities. The DDCE contributes to a synergy among community engagement initiatives that extend from the academic colleges, schools, and administrative units to community-university initiatives that promote equity, access, and social justice

UT’s Community Engagement Center, located in a traditionally underserved area of Austin, is the home base for many of DDCE’s partnerships with communities historically underserved by UT, including the Community Engagement Incubator Project, which addresses inequality in the Austin area by fostering and sustaining direct collaborative research and pedagogy efforts between UT faculty, students, and community organizations. Successful incubation projects include the African American Men and Boys Harvest Foundation, which provides culturally relevant services to its population; FreeMinds, a writing program in underserved communities; and Foodways Texas, which promotes the diverse food cultures of Texas. The Regional Foundation Library provides local nonprofit organizations with access to training and information on foundation funding. The Colony Park Sustainable Community Initiative (CPSCI) is a unique partnership of the City of Austin, UT, and the Colony Park neighborhood. Funded through a $3 million HUD grant, CPSCI is tasked with the development of a master plan for 208 acres of publicly-owned land. In like manner, the Restore Rundberg initiative promotes community development and revitalization in the Rundberg neighborhood of Austin by engaging research from faculty and students in the School of Social Work and community engagement assistance from the DDCE.


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:

Having a premier wellness program offers students the opportunity to apply the skills they are learning in the classroom to real life experience. The wellness program relies on student interns to accomplish the strategic plan. The wellness program expands on many of the degree tracks offered at the university, including kinesiology and health education, social work, public health, nutritional science, nursing, pharmacology, business and communications. Upon completing an internship with the wellness program, students are better prepared to enter the workforce or continue on to graduate school. Students gain first-hand experience planning, implementing and evaluating population-based health programs. Students have enhanced the wellness program by developing communication materials, giving presentations, monitoring health stations, managing the onsite farm-to-work CSA program, supporting healthy vending machines and much more. By providing a unique internship with a premier employee wellness program, what starts here really can change the world.


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:

Three graduate students from the McComb’s School of Business proposed the establishment of a revolving fund, called the UT Energy Savings Fund, the would involve and incentivize academic units to achieve the university’s demand reduction goals; the fund would invest in energy conservation measures on campus that would otherwise not be funded. Run out of the Business School, the fund would be overseen by a board of advisors including UT operations staff, and McCombs faculty and students. A multi-disciplinary graduate student team would be overseen by a faculty advisor and provide financial analysis of energy conservation measures seeking funding from the Energy Savings Fund. The Fund would be incorporated into the curriculum to provide academic value and continuity. While the fund has not yet been created, this student proposal has advanced the conversation on how to best incentivize green investment and energy savings.


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:
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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:
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The website URL where information about the institution’s campus as a living laboratory program or projects is available:
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UT Austin's Texas CityLab is a program in development at the university that is designed to engage students in team-based, real-world sustainability challenges. The first year of the program will engage students in UT Austin sustainability-challenges. Texas CityLab provides administrative structure and support for living-laboratory projects and will eventually partner with municipalities in Texas.

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