Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 72.78
Liaison Dennis Cochrane
Submission Date Feb. 18, 2021

STARS v2.2

Virginia Tech
PA-2: Sustainability Planning

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.00 / 4.00 Dennis Cochrane
Director, Office of Sustainability
Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure and Facilities
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have a published plan or plans that include measurable sustainability objectives that address sustainability in curriculum and/or research?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives related to academics and the plan(s) in which they are published:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment & Sustainability Plan (VTCAC&SP) states the university will use the AASHE's “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Curriculum Credits in the STARS Academics Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives: we strive to increase the percentage of sustainability courses offered with the measurable goal to attain greater than 20% of offered courses related to sustainability by 2025. We encourage departments to encourage their students to take a sustainability course(s), whether through required courses or electives.

One way progress is measured in the academic arena is with the use of STARS as our reporting tool. We are able to track the number of sustainable courses we offer with each submission as we update our academics table and track our numbers.


Does the institution have a published plan or plans that include measurable sustainability objectives that address student, employee, or community engagement for sustainability?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives related to engagement and the plan(s) in which they are published:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP states the university will use the AASHE's “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Campus Engagement Credits in the STARS Engagement Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. Our goal is to expand the current green office certification program with the goal of getting all departments certified by 2025. The Office of Sustainability leads the effort to expand sustainability educational opportunities for faculty and staff campus-wide to include: presentations, webinars, face-to-face meetings, and interaction with the Faculty-Staff Senate.

Engagement is measured through social media interactions, tracking of volunteers at sustainability-related events, and noting the number of participants in newsletters, at events, and on sign-up sheets. The goal is always to increase engagement every year, reaching a wider scope of students, faculty, and staff than the year before as well as achieving higher active engagement rates than the previous year.


Does the institution have a published plan or plans that include measurable sustainability objectives that address sustainability in operations?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives related to operations and the plan(s) in which they are published:

The Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP states the university will use the AASHE's “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Energy Credits in the STARS Operations Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives. See the Notes section.

The Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment point #4 states: “Virginia Tech will work toward these emission reduction targets through improved energy efficiency, reduction of energy waste, replacement of high-carbon fuels, and other measures identified in the VTCAC&SP.”

The Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment point #7 states: “Virginia Tech will improve electricity and heating efficiency of campus facilities and their operations by: a. Exceeding the most current version of ASHRAE 90.1 energy performance by 10% for all new buildings and major renovations. Capital budgets should account for future energy price, life cycle cost of building operation, and environmental benefits of achieving this level of performance. b. Improving the heating and cooling infrastructure and operation, lighting efficiency, equipment efficiency, and metering and controls of its existing buildings."

The Campus Master Plan lists measurable goals relating to operations. Virginia Tech has a goal to reduce emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. Another goal is to increase the recycling rate to 50% by 2025.


Does the institution have a published plan or plans that include measurable sustainability objectives that address diversity, equity, and inclusion; sustainable investment/finance; or wellbeing?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives related to administration and the plan(s) in which they are published:

Diversity is a large part of the Virginia Tech Campus Master Plan. Much of the plan is focused on ensuring campus growth is consistent with the university's goals of increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Virginia Tech expects to attract increasing student diversity. Since 2007, Virginia Tech's student body has become more racially diverse with the proportion of students self-identifying as non-white increasing from 30 to 37%.

In addition to diversity of race being a major focus of the Master Plan, "Access for All" is another major section. The goal over time is to establish a network of barrier-free circulation routes for use by all members of the campus community. "Green Links" are going to be created across campus and these pathways have the goal of being design to slope at less than 5% and are wide enough to accommodate inclusive access, bicycles, and small service vehicles. By creating barrier-free pathways for all, new connections across campus are provided. Each Green Link also provides access to bus stops and other amenities.

More specific goals regarding accessibility and equity can be found in the Campus Master Plan.

As was the case with the other topical areas, the Virginia Tech Sustainability Plan: 2014 Update and Supplement to 2009 VTCAC&SP states the university will use the AASHE's “Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System (STARS)” Protocol as the foundation for our sustainability planning. Therefore, the Administration Credits in the STARS Operations Category provides our measurable sustainability objectives.


Does the institution have a published strategic plan or equivalent guiding document that includes sustainability at a high level? :
Yes

The institution’s highest guiding document (upload):
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Website URL where the institution’s highest guiding document is publicly available:
Which of the following best describes the inclusion of sustainability in the highest guiding document?:
Minor theme

The institution's sustainability plan (upload):
Website URL where the institution's sustainability plan is publicly available:
Does the institution have a formal statement in support of sustainability endorsed by its governing body?:
Yes

The formal statement in support of sustainability:

Sustainability Mission:
The pursuit of sustainability is achieved through Virginia Tech's administration; physical environment and operations; student life and experience; campus culture and behavior; and academic learning, discovery, and engagement.

The revised VTCAC was endorsed by the University Council on May 6, 2013, and it includes a sustainability mission statement, vision and definition.

The current, approved Climate Action Commitment states that "Virginia Tech will represent the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment and Sustainability Plan in the university's Strategic Plan." This means that all of the clear, measurable goals listed in the Climate Action Commitment are goals that the university is pursuing and actively supports in its highest governing document. The Climate Action Commitment can be found at this link: https://www.facilities.vt.edu/content/dam/facilities_vt_edu/sustainability/climate-action-commitment.pdf


The institution’s definition of sustainability:

Sustainability Definition:
Sustainability is the simultaneous pursuit of environmental quality, economic prosperity, and social justice and equity, through action, education, and engagement to address current needs without compromising the capacity and needs of future generations.


Is the institution an endorser or signatory of the following? :
Yes or No
The Earth Charter No
The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) No
ISCN-GULF Sustainable Campus Charter No
Pan-Canadian Protocol for Sustainability No
SDG Accord No
Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment (formerly known as the ACUPCC), Resilience Commitment, and/or integrated Climate Commitment No
The Talloires Declaration (TD) No
UN Global Compact No
Other multi-dimensional sustainability commitments (please specify below) No

A brief description of the institution’s formal sustainability commitments, including the specific initiatives selected above:
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Website URL where information about the institution’s sustainability planning efforts is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Sustainability is a major theme at Virginia Tech and is supported by our Strategic Plan.

During Earth Week 2008, former Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger charged the newly established Energy and Sustainability Committee to develop a Virginia Tech climate commitment with clear, measurable, and realistic goals, and an accompanying sustainability plan to achieve those goals. The documentation was developed during calendar year 2008 and reviewed using the university governance system in the 2009 spring semester. On Earth Day, April 22, 2009, the University Council recommended approval of the “Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment” and accepted the accompanying “Sustainability Plan” (VTCAC&SP). On June 1, 2009 the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors unanimously approved the “Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment” which became Presidential Policy Memorandum No. 262.

The VTCAC contained 14 distinct points and featured numerous measurable sustainability objectives. It established interim and long-term reduction targets for campus greenhouse gases (GHGs), improvements in energy efficiency and reductions in energy demand, it required the pursuit of LEED Silver Certification or better for all new construction projects and major renovations, it established a goal to achieve a 50% recycle rate by 2025, and it required the newly created Office of Sustainability to prepare an annual “report card” showcasing sustainability progress.

Most relevant to ensuring sustainability is a major theme at Virginia Tech and in our Strategic Plan is Point #2 which states that "VIRGINIA TECH WILL REPRESENT THE VIRGINIA TECH CLIMATE ACTION COMMITMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY PLAN IN THE UNIVERSITY'S STRATEGIC PLAN." The Climate Action Commitment can be found at this link: https://www.facilities.vt.edu/content/dam/facilities_vt_edu/sustainability/climate-action-commitment.pdf

The Virginia Tech Office of Sustainability also releases a Sustainability Annual Report summarizing sustainable efforts by the Office and the University. It highlights the work of Alternative Transportation, Dining, and many other groups while showcasing awards and events from the previous year. The Sustainability Annual Report follows the format of the VT CAC, organizing accomplishments by the order of the 14 points. The 2019-20 Sustainability Annual Report can be found here: https://www.facilities.vt.edu/content/dam/facilities_vt_edu/sustainability/annual-reports/2019-20%20Sustainability%20Annual%20Report%20-%20FINAL.pdf

THE FOLLOWING EXCERPTS FROM THE 2019-20 SUSTAINABILITY ANNUAL REPORT HIGHLIGHT THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN THE VIRGINIA TECH STRATEGIC PLAN AND THE UNIVERSITY'S COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY AS A MAJOR THEME:

"'Virginia Tech will represent the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment and Sustainability Plan in the university's Strategic Plan.'

The new Virginia Tech Strategic Plan, the Virginia Tech Difference: Advancing Beyond Boundaries was approved by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors on June 2, 2019. The Strategic Plan can be viewed at strategicaffairs.vt.edu/StrategicPlanning/the-vt-difference-advancing-beyond-boundaries.

STRATEGIC PRIORITY 4 (ENSURE INSTITUTIONAL EXCELLENCE) highlights the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment by stating the following: 'Approved by the Board of Visitors on June 1, 2009, the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment envisions Virginia Tech as a model community for a sustainable society. The Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment affirms that Virginia Tech will be a leader in campus sustainability and outlines several goals and milestones for improving sustainability. Areas of focus include reducing emissions, improving the sustainability of the built environment, minimizing waste, and improving electricity, heating, and transportation efficiency. Virginia Tech engages and involves the university community in these efforts through multiple activities including the development and implementation of sustainability-related academic programs and innovative strategies for efficient and sustainable use of energy, water, and materials in all university-owned facilities.' Beyond Boundaries 2047: The Campus Plan, approved by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors in November 2018, integrates the facilities and infrastructure required to support Virginia Tech's new strategic plan. It includes a network of amenities and services designed to improve the student experience; an integrated approach to accessibility and mobility; and a series of mixed-use districts featuring new cross-disciplinary academic, research, and partnership facilities. The plan reinforces the academic, research, and outreach mission across Virginia Tech's three campuses and numerous agricultural stations. In doing so, it responds to five overarching goals: (1) enhance learning and research environments; (2) expand strategic partnerships; (3) protect the land grant legacy; (4) facilitate accessibility and mobility; and (5) foster an inclusive campus experience. Beyond Boundaries 2047 can be viewed at: bit.ly/VTBeyondBoundaries2047.

SUSTAINABILITY OUTCOMES ARE FEATURED ON PAGES 322-31. The intent is to:
- Minimize consumption of natural land, and reduce vehicular emissions, via a land use strategy focusing on infill development rather than sprawl (including a growth boundary established by the proposed Western Perimeter Road);
- Reduce vehicular emissions via an alternative transportation-focused mobility system (e.g. transit, walking, bicycles), the relocation of parking to the perimeter of campus, and the construction of a transit hub in the academic core;
- Advance green stormwater and carbon sequestration efforts through strategic reforestation along major campus corridors and the integration of substantial landscape elements into the proposed accessible pathway system (particularly the Green Links); and
- Conserve energy by promoting energy-efficient building siting and design, as well as conversion to alternative energy sources (in keeping with the university's Climate Action Commitment). Over the 2019-20 academic year, the 2018 Campus Master Plan has continued to be adopted and implemented across campus. Throughout the year, collaborative, partnership-driven continuous planning processes were launched, including the development of unit-level strategic plans and feasibility studies to inform prioritization and implementation of Beyond Boundaries 2047.

Another plan which is currently being written and that will help Virginia Tech reach its sustainability goals is the Campus Urban Forest Master Plan. This plan is being created by University Arborist Jamie King and will set the tone for how the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities will manage campus natural resources and care for Virginia Tech's trees. Among the goals that this plan hopes to lay out is to preserve valuable and safe trees on campus; institute an urban tree canopy goal; institute a campus tree policy; and provide opportunities for teaching and research on a campus that is safe and beautiful.

The university's newly updated Design and Construction Standards Manual (facilities.vt.edu/planning-construction/design-and-construction-standards) outlines the philosophy, standards, recommendations, and requirements for the design and construction of campus buildings. More information on the Design and Construction Standards Manual can be found in Point 7: Electricity and Heating Efficiency."

Four months after the approval of the new Strategic Plan, students held a climate strike on campus. This strike resulted in Virginia Tech President Tim Sands releasing this statement on November 8: https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2019/11/president-climate-commitment.html. THIS STATEMENT MENTIONS HOW THE NEW STRATEGIC PLAN TIES IN WITH THE CLIMATE ACTION COMMITMENT. President Tim Sands states, "I encourage everyone in the Virginia Tech community to learn ore about our Climate Action Commitment and the positive work we can accomplish when students, faculty, and administrators unite under a common goal. SUSTAINABILITY IS PART OF THE FABRIC OF THIS UNIVERSITY AS WE PURSUE ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY AND STEWARSHIP, ECONOMIC STABILITY AND AFFORDABILITY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION, EXPANSION OF KNOWLEDGE, AND THE EDUCATION OF FUTURE LEADERS. THE UNIVERSITY'S NEW STRATEGIC PLAN REFLECTS THESE VALUES. When we come together as a community to address common concerns, we can find a path to a bright and sustainable future. The spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) will assure that our commitment is realized."

Following President Tim Sands' statement, Dr. Dwayne Pinkney, Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer at Virginia Tech, released the following statement on how he will tackle this effort of revising the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment: https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2020/11/svpcbo-ClimateActionCommitment1120.html. The Virginia Tech 2020 Climate Action Commitment Working Group was established and worked tirelessly through 2020, in spite of all the challenges posed by COVID-19, to produce the Virginia Tech 2020 Climate Action Commitment Working Group Final Report Executive Summary and Overview (attached). This report was presented to Dr. Pinkney in July 2020. Following that presentation, the university governance review process kicked in at the start of the 2020 fall semester and the CUS Resolution 2020-2021A was successfully reviewed by the Energy and Sustainability Committee, Commission on University Support (CUS), and the University Council. President Tim Sands is the Chair of the University Council and both he and Dr. Pinkney participated in the UC discussions, demonstrating the senior level involvement, excitement, and support for this effort. Professor Emeritus John Randolph presented the revised Climate Action Commitment to the Board of Visitors on November 15, 2020.

For the past three months, a dozen key operations and finance personnel at the university (including two VPs) have conducted a high level review of the costs to implement the VT 2020 CAC. The review has determined we can financially support the VT 2020 CAC, and this will be presented to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors at their upcoming meeting on March 21 and 22, 2021. The VT CAC is at the top of the agenda.

All of us working at Virginia Tech know that the VT 2020 Climate Action Commitment has been at the forefront. Sustainability is a major theme at Virginia Tech and is supported not only in many of our guiding documents but by our senior level administrators and student body as well.

More information on the VT 2020 CAC Working Group can be found here: https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2019/12/unirel-climate-action.html

Our full 2019-20 Sustainability Annual Report (which outlines specific ways in which sustainability is reflected in the Strategic Plan - see Point 2) can be found here: https://www.facilities.vt.edu/content/dam/facilities_vt_edu/sustainability/annual-reports/2019-20%20Sustainability%20Annual%20Report%20-%20FINAL.pdf. The SAR also provides more information on the VT CAC WG.

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.