Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 71.94
Liaison Dennis Cochrane
Submission Date Dec. 19, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Virginia Tech
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Dennis Cochrane
Sustainability Program Manager
Facilities Services, Office of Energy and Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

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 Campus Energy Manager Ruben Avagyan and Environmental Engineer Rob Lowe are responsible for monitoring our greenhouse gas emissions and tracking our progress for reduction. Student interns are recruited to assist them with the gathering of the data and with displaying that on an excel spreadsheet. This information is a key component of our Sustainability Annual Report which is viewed by senior University leadership and the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. In addition, student interns assisted with gathering data and information for several STARS credits in the Operations Category to include OP 1: Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Ruben Avagyan, Campus Energy Manager, rubena@vt.edu, (540) 231-6348, Facilities Department.


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:

Each year Jason Pearman (Building Automation System Supervisor, Facilities Engineering Operations, Facilities Department) has taken students in the Environmental Building Systems class (about 100 students per year, 3rd year BS. Arch) to tour the mechanical systems in Cowgill Hall (CAUS) and the Southwest Chiller Plant. The Cowgill Hall tour has benefited the students by allowing them to see one of the largest air handling units on campus, and in some cases to even walk inside it. Cowgill Hall is an especially good building for this tour because the mechanical systems are partially exposed in the ceiling, and the students are familiar with the building's operation. The Southwest Chiller Plant tours are helpful for explaining both the energy and water use impact of cooling systems in buildings.

The Reflective Roofing Research project (at Vet Med) involved eight students from the BS. Arch, MS. Arch, and Ph.D. in Architecture and Design Research degree programs. Because Facilities cooperated with the research agenda for this project, the students learned about the impacts of roof reflectivity on air temperatures above roofs, and on surfaces of materials adjacent to roofs (e.g. metal conduits and opaque and glazed walls). Students also learned about how to apply low-slope roof membranes and install monitoring and data logging equipment.

Elizabeth Grant, Associate Professor, School of Architecture + Design, and Associate Director, Center for High Performance Environments, elgrant2@vt.edu, (540) 231-0609, College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

This year Virginia Tech’s facilities group worked with two local school districts to put on a tour of campus for middle school students with the goal of increasing interest in STEM fields. The tour included stops at our power plant, quarry, chiller plant, facilities operational headquarters, and several high-performance buildings. Along with these stops, the groups of students had short presentations from faculty architects, engineers, and mechanics that highlighted sustainable building design elements and energy-efficient practices that are used here. This year the program had approximately 80 participants, and next year’s tour is planning to accommodate over 400 students.

Scott Kerklo, P.E. Mechanical Engineer, Facilities Department, skerklo@vt.edu, (540) 231-7840.


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:

The Steam Plant is perhaps the best example of Virginia Tech use of campus facilities as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research. Our Co-Generation Plant provides steam for heat and hot water, and chilled water for air conditioning, and its steam turbine provides a small amount of electricity for the campus. During Academic Year 2016-2017 Plant Operations Manager Ted Acord worked directly with 15 faculty members to support student education and research. He hosted 34 tours for university students with total attendance at approximately 300. Most of those students have majors within the College of Engineering, the College of Science, and the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. In addition, he hosted 60 seniors from nearby Blacksburg High School.

Ted A. Acord, Plant Operations Manager, Virginia Tech Power Plant, tacord@exchange.vt.edu, (540) 231-5722, Facilities Department.

Each year Jason Pearman (Building Automation System Supervisor, Facilities Engineering Operations, Facilities Department) has taken students in the Environmental Building Systems class (about 100 students per year, 3rd year BS. Arch) to tour the mechanical systems in Cowgill Hall (CAUS) and the Southwest Chiller Plant. The Cowgill Hall tour has benefited the students by allowing them to see one of the largest air handling units on campus, and in some cases to even walk inside it. Cowgill Hall is an especially good building for this tour because the mechanical systems are partially exposed in the ceiling, and the students are familiar with the building's operation. The Southwest Chiller Plant tours are helpful for explaining both the energy and water use impact of cooling systems in buildings.

Elizabeth Grant, Associate Professor, School of Architecture + Design, and Associate Director, Center for High Performance Environments, elgrant2@vt.edu, (540) 231-0609, College of Architecture and Urban Studies.


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 Dining Services Farm (DSF), which is located on campus, is used as both an educational space and as a productive farm that provides food for Dining Services. The Farm Manager, Alex Hessler, teaches hands-on classes at the DSF. These classes allow students to gain hands-on sustainable agriculture experience while also growing food for Dining Services. The farm is also used for agricultural research.

Gwyneth Manser, Sustainability Manager, gmanser@vt.edu, (540) 231-1139,
Virginia Tech Dining Services and Housing & Residence Life.


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:

Dr. Eric Wiseman pays quite a bit of attention to the campus urban forest because it is instructive to see how trees respond and develop over time. He uses observations to support his teaching and to incorporate examples of the good and the bad on campus. He brings things he observes to the attention of members of the Facilities Department, with the hope that this information can help improve campus operations, and thereby campus sustainability.

He uses the campus urban forest as an instructional space throughout his courses. In most cases, these activities only indirectly benefit campus sustainability. For example, students his classes probably share with their peers or instructors what they learn on campus and this raises awareness of campus sustainability. Or, we might observe something problematic with campus trees that we then report to campus operations. Other times, we do things that are more directly beneficial. For example, he has instructional labs on tree pruning, planting, and cultivation in a couple of my courses, and we often end up planting or tending trees on campus during labs. We’ve also created tree inventories or reports on occasion that have been utilized by campus operations. The courses that I teach extensively on-campus include: Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation courses FREC 2254, FREC 3354, FREC 3454, and FREC 4454.

His students do a good bit of service-learning on campus. They are involved each year with service projects revolving around Sustainability Week, Earth Day, and Arbor Day. Most commonly they have done tree planting, but we’ve also held educational activities on campus to raise awareness about urban forests on Arbor Day.

P. Eric Wiseman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Urban Forestry, pwiseman@vt.edu,(540) 231-5148, Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, College of Natural Resources and Environment.

Office of University Planning Site Planner Bob Massengale has worked with a number of students in support of Pamela Vickers (Director ADA and Access) Accessibility Program with activities including site visits, design and development meetings and feedback sessions. Bob works with Dr. Wiseman on tree and plant performance and testing, Dr. Susan Day (Associate Professor, Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation) in exploring better soil remediation and preparation strategies, and Dr. Holly Scoggins (Associate Professor, Department of Horticulture) on perennials a the Hahn Horticulture Garden.

Bob Massengale, Site Planner, Office of University Planning, mmassen@vt.edu, (540) 231-4961, Facilities Department.


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

The Alternative Transportation unit of Parking and Transportation is directly responsible for the programs at the university aimed at creating a sustainable working environment for all faculty, staff, and students. This is accomplished through multiple programs and with the assistance of several undergraduate and graduate level student interns. The student interns are given the opportunity to develop program management skills and to use their passions for sustainability to help further the goals of the university. The programs of the unit are described below:

Alternative Transportation promotes and encourages sustainable transportation programs including: bicycling, walking, vanpooling, carpooling, car sharing, and transit use for local, regional, and out of state travel. The mission of the department is to help people get to and from campus in any mode of transportation other than a single occupancy vehicle. The programs include Commuter Alternative Programs such as the Bus, Bike, and Walk Program and the Carpool Program, Van Pools, Car Sharing, and Transit.

Blacksburg Transit provides public transportation for faculty, staff, and students of Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech makes up over 95% of the passengers for Blacksburg Transit and supports the needs of the Virginia Tech community. Virginia Tech employees and students ride fare-free by showing their Hokie Passport. Blacksburg Transit transports an average of 3.5 million riders per year.

Transportation options outside of Blacksburg include the SmartWay shuttle (Valley Metro Transit), providing service between Roanoke and the Virginia Tech Campus, including the Blacksburg-Roanoke Airport. Other options include the SmartWay Connector, College Transit, Home Ride of Virginia, and Megabus to help faculty, staff, and students get from the Blacksburg campus to locations within and out of Virginia.
http://parking.vt.edu/alternative.html

Jeri Baker, Director, Parking and Transportation Services, jab518@vt.edu, (540) 231-9905, Parking and Transportation Services Department.


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:

Dining Services supports several efforts around waste education and student engagement. We are currently working with a green engineering student to design and execute a waste contamination audit at a dining center on campus. In the summer of 2017 Dining Services also worked with the Sustainability Institute on campus to provide students with a real-world research project around campus composting. In addition, Dining is working with two professors to provide waste for composting research on campus. One of the projects partnered a professor with a group of students to create a biodigester that ran on campus food waste. Our Sustainability Manager is also engaged in in-class student outreach to discuss how VT Dining Services deals with our waste stream.

Gwyneth Manser, Sustainability Manager, gmanser@vt.edu, (540) 231-1139,
Virginia Tech Dining Services and Housing & Residence Life.

The Office of Sustainability sponsors our “Tailgate Recycling Program” for home football games. Our student Tailgate Recycling Coordinator is responsible for planning and executing the event with assistance from the Facilities Department, the YMCA at Virginia Tech, and various student groups that provided student volunteers. Volunteers assemble at the YMCA’s Lancaster House near Lane Stadium several hours before game time where they receive training and recycling supplies prior to engaging patrons in the major parking lots. During the 2016 football season we held five tailgate recycling events. Over 150 student volunteers engaged with an estimated 30,000 fans to provide recycling instruction and encourage their participation. Virginia Tech collected a record 9,000 pounds of single stream recycling material which represented five times the amount received from the previous year.

Dennis C. Cochrane, Sustainability Program Manager, denniscc@vt.edu, (540) 231-5184, Facilities Department.

The Office of Sustainability Student Intern Team works directly with our Office of Environmental Health and Safety to support the “Battery Recycling Program.” Collection containers were recently purchased with funds from the student Green RFP Program, and they are placed in high traffic areas campus wide such as the Squires Student Center. In the past the only option student had to recycle batteries was to bring them across campus the EHS warehouse. The new program allows students to use containers that are conveniently placed in the academic, administration, and student auxiliary locations.

Rob Lowe, Environmental Manager, rlowe@vt.edu, (540) 231-2510, Environmental Health and Safety Department.


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:

Each year Jason Pearman (Building Automation System Supervisor, Facilities Engineering Operations, Facilities Department) has taken students in the Environmental Building Systems class (about 100 students per year, 3rd year BS. Arch) to tour the mechanical systems in Cowgill Hall (CAUS) and the Southwest Chiller Plant. The Cowgill Hall tour has benefited the students by allowing them to see one of the largest air handling units on campus, and in some cases to even walk inside it. Cowgill Hall is an especially good building for this tour because the mechanical systems are partially exposed in the ceiling, and the students are familiar with the building's operation. The Southwest Chiller Plant tours are helpful for explaining both the energy and water use impact of cooling systems in buildings.

Elizabeth Grant, Associate Professor, School of Architecture + Design, and Associate Director, Center for High Performance Environments, elgrant2@vt.edu, (540) 231-0609, College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

The Office of Site and Infrastructure Development has had student interns working with them for many years. Areas of focus has concentrated on stormwater management.


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:

Earth Week has traditionally been a student planned and executed University program led by the student group Environmental Coalition. It is held annually and packaged around the nationally recognized Earth Day, April 22. During the 2016 fall semester the Office of Sustainability hosted our inaugural “Student Sustainability Forum” with the goal of bringing all student sustainability groups together to collaborate throughout the year and to plan a comprehensive Earth Week Program. The idea was immediately embraced by the student leaders of all groups and Earth Week 2017 was absolutely outstanding.

The Office of Sustainability oversees a robust Student Sustainability Intern Program. Students are organized into five person teams to include: the Residence and Outreach Team, the Energy Team, the Recycling Team, and the Communications Team. While the Communications Team is responsible for overseeing social media, it also promotes the programs of the other three teams. Each team has a leader and an assist leader. Each team focuses on tackling real world campus issues with the primary goal of training their peers to live a more sustainable lifestyle. The eight leaders meet weekly with the OS staff to plan and coordinate events and activities. Each member of the four teams meet weekly do the same for their separate venues. All members meet weekly for general coordination and guidance, and participate in professional development education. Each student has the opportunity to lead a team event and plan and coordinate all the details with the appropriate University faculty and staff personnel.

Karlee Siepierski, Campus Sustainability Planner, skarlee3@vt.edu, (540) 231-7358,
Facilities Department


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:

Investment: In order to advance the programmatic goals of the institution, the Investment Committee authorizes up to a 5% allocation to Program Related Investments (PRI) to be administered by the Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, in consultation with staff. Embedded within the 5% target are allocations not to exceed $12 million in support of student-led investment groups. There a currently three student groups that invest funds for the Foundation. SEED manages a $5 million equity portfolio. BASIS manages a $5M fixed income portfolio. COINS manages a $700,000 agricultural and energy equity portfolio.

SEED: http://virginiatechseed.com/
BASIS: http://www.basis.pamplin.vt.edu/
COINS: http://www.coins.aaec.vt.edu/

John J. Cusimano, University Treasurer and Associate Vice President for Finance, Virginia Tech Foundation, cusi@vt.edu, (540) 231-7094, Investment and Debt Management Department.


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:

Students have the opportunity to participate with and to serve with officials from the Town of Blacksburg and surrounding communities to advance sustainability in our region. Internships with the Town of Blacksburg government are very common and students work on real world issues. The Office of Sustainability Energy Team members served with the Town of Blacksburg Sustainability Manager to prepare a sustainability survey for use with off-campus housing properties.

Karlee Siepierski, Campus Sustainability Planner, skarlee3@vt.edu, (540) 231-7358,
Facilities Department


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 Hokie Wellness department collaborates with campus partners to offer cooking and gardening classes to encourage students and employees to learn how to grow and cook their own food. Nutrition classes are also offered to educate the campus community on food insecurity, sustainability and healthy nutrition options.

The Hokie Wellness faculty conducted focus groups with the two Hokie Wellness peer student education groups – the Health Education Awareness Team (HEAT) and the Initiating and Motivating a Positive Alcohol Culture Together (IMPACT) – to gather student input on wellness, sustainability, and health for the Cannon Design Virginia Tech health and wellness feasibility study. The study is evaluating the spaces on campus that are utilized by the health and wellness departments and what can be done to improve, expand and strategically plan for future use of the spaces for the growing needs of the health and wellness departments on campus.

The Hokie Wellness department collaborates with the Masters of Public Health program, the Human, Foods, Nutrition and Exercise program, and the Nutrition Counseling program to offer field study, internships and practicums to students interested in working in the health and wellness field. Students have completed multiple health and wellness projects. One example is a student offered blood pressure checks and blood pressure education to employees. Students also offer free nutrition counseling for employees by students.

This past year, the Division of Student Affairs Health and Wellness areas worked with the Student Government Association to develop the first ever Student Wellness Advisory Team (SWAT) to examine the broader health and wellness efforts on campus such as working to establish a Tobacco-Free Campus policy. The team did initiated a successful Sleep Campaign in April 2017 to educate students and employees on the importance of sleep on their health and wellbeing. http://hokiewellness.vt.edu/students/programs.html

Cathy Kropff, Director of Hokie Wellness, ckropff@vt.edu, (540) 231-8878, Hokie Wellness Department.


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:

The Virginia Tech Perspective Gallery located in Squires Student Center hosts a number of exhibits each year related to sustainability awareness. For example they hosted the project "Blue Trees Symphony" https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2016/11/110816-dsa-bluedtrees.html

Other projects include community engagement such as through the interactive project "What Color is Water?" which helps educate the public about water quality. http://perspectivegallery.blogspot.com/2016/04/art-reach-what-color-is-water.html


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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The Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment states "Virginia Tech will maintain a sustainability office to work with the faculty and departments to manage a campus-wide student internship and undergraduate research program using the campus as a sustainability laboratory."
(Presidential Policy Memorandum No. 262, Revision 1, dated May 9, 2013).

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.