University at Albany
 

Campus as a Living Lab

A living lab is a given place where problem-based teaching, researching and applied work combine to develop actionable solutions that make that place more sustainable. These living labs accelerate transitions to a more sustainable place through joint commitments from students, faculty, staff and local residents to design, implement, adapt and teach new approaches that address issues of equity, economy and ecology.

Living labs that couple academic rigor with applied learning on sustainability-related campus infrastructure projects provide an opportunity for community colleges to address many of these objectives simultaneously:

  • Facilitate experiential learning and make curricula relevant
  • Reduce the carbon footprint
  • Use institutional resources efficiently
  • Improve college completion

The University at Albany utilizes its infrastructure and operations for multidisciplinary student learning, applied research and practical work that advances sustainability on campus in at least one of the following areas:

  • Air & Climate
  • Buildings
  • Dining Services/Food
  • Energy
  • Grounds
  • Purchasing
  • Transportation
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Coordination, Planning & Governance
  • Diversity & Affordability
  • Health, Wellbeing & Work
  • Investment
  • Public Engagement

Explore some of the Campus as a Living Laboratory opportunities and examples at the University at Albany:

Air & Climate-  Our energy officer has formed a collaboration with our Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Science and she often speaks in their class, discussing various initiatives we have undertaken. This calendar year, she gave seminars followed by a tour for Professor Ross Lazear's Environmental Freshman Seminar class on Nov 6 and Professor Brian Tang's Weather, Climate Change and Environmental Impacts class on March 30. The seminar and classes cover a wide variety of topics including including alternative transportation, stormwater management, energy efficiency of the geothermal system and lighting system, water efficiency, use of non-potable water for irrigation, materials used –regional, recycled content and low VOC and Indoor Environmental Quality. The seminar is usually followed by a tour of one of our LEED certified buildings, usually Liberty Terrace or the new School of Business. Note: this example also applies to the Energy category as this projects includes both elements.

Buildings- Nine of UAlbany's new buildings have achieved LEED certification. We often host tours of buildings, especially Liberty Terrace and the Massry School of Business building. Most recently, our energy officer hosted students from Professor Rixiang Huang's Environmental Engineering class.The tour was an excellent way for the University to integrate its building operations with course curriculum as well as give students a practical example of environmental engineering.

Energy- Our energy officer has formed a collaboration with our Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Science and she often speaks in their class, discussing various initiatives we have undertaken. This calendar year, she gave seminars followed by a tour for Professor Ross Lazear's Environmental Freshman Seminar class on Nov 6 and Professor Brian Tang's Weather, Climate Change and Environmental Impacts class on March 30. The seminar and classes cover a wide variety of topics including including alternative transportation, stormwater management, energy efficiency of the geothermal system and lighting system, water efficiency, use of non-potable water for irrigation, materials used –regional, recycled content and low VOC and Indoor Environmental Quality. The seminar is usually followed by a tour of one of our LEED certified buildings, usually Liberty Terrace or the new School of Business. Note: this example also applies to the Air & Climate category as the project includes both elements.

Food & Dinning- Students in a freshman seminar course collaborated with our University Auxiliary Services to document and create visuals depicting the local farms from which the university purchases food. The signs have been placed in the hallway that students line up to enter the freshman dining hall in Indian Quad. Examples of the signs are included in the additional documentation section.

Grounds- Brian Dagley, a student in the Biodiversity, Conservation and Policy program, used the campus grounds in his master's thesis. Specifically he conducted bee and wasp counts at three locations on campus: a meadow, a landscaped garden and our retention pond. He compared the counts in terms of numbers and biodiversity of species to counts done at a local high school's (Doane Stuart) green roof and at the nearby Albany Pine Bush Preserve. He found that while the bees and wasps were more numerous on campus, the diversity was less than those found at the other two locations. Brian just successfully defended his thesis on December 17th, so his paper is not yet published but two slides from his defense are included in the supplemental section of this credit.https://www.albany.edu/biology/graduate_programs/masters/biodiversity/current_students.shtml

Transportation- In Professor Lawson's Urban and Metropolitan Transportation Planning course (PLN 544) students analyze access points on campus and in the surrounding community to identify potential infrastructure upgrades with respect to a safe pedestrian environment. Student projects in this course have identified areas of residential development on and off campus where implementation of green infrastructure can provide for storm water management and safer routes and crossings for pedestrians.

Waste- An ad hoc working group was formed to examine waste diversion issues in 2016. The group consisted of administrators, faculty and students. The group decided to create new waste diversion infrastructure in the lecture centers on campus. This is one of the more highly used areas where large number of students have their classes. Under the guidance of Professor Ron Friedman (Psychology) and Ioannis Kareklas (Marketing), students participated in documenting the number of bottles and cans that were put in the waste bins. This resulted in a proposal to purchase new waste and recycling bins. After these bins were purchased, students conducted audits to identify whether the bins were effective, distributed surveys to gauge student perceptions of the new bins and consulted with the professors to create educational messaging.

Water- Our newest residential area, Liberty Terrace, has served as the site for lessons in stormwater management, highlighting its raingardens, green roof and location next to Indian Pond, our retention basin that provides water to irrigate our fields and lawns. Classes have been brought to Liberty Terrace for tours on this topic. Most recently the incoming Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) class participated in an interactive lesson on green building and water management as part of an experiential learning component during their summer orientation.

Wellbeing & Work- Local, sustainable and plant based food choices have been examined by our Eco-reps over the last year. The Eco-Reps reviewed survey results garnered in previous years about student interest and awareness about local and sustainable food choices offered in the dining hall. They created educational outreach designed to increase awareness about this issue. They also surveyed the current student residences about their interest in plant based menus. Students held a meeting with the dining services at the end of last year to discuss better labeling and options for plant based choices in the campus center food court. This project is still in process but the food court now has more labeling indicating vegan and vegetarian choices.

Arts & Culture- The University Art Museum instituted a semester long exhibit called: Future Perfect; Picturing the Antropocene in the Fall of 2017. This was accompanied by brown bag lunch speakers from a variety of disciples addressing human's impact on the environment. In addition, there were evening presentations by book authors such as Jeff Goodall and Jennifer Haight. As part of this exhibit, two professors incorporated their courses and classwork into this exhibit. Professor Joanna Carson's art class was invited to recurate a part of the exhibit. Professor Michael Leong's English class wrote poetry that was inspired by the exhibits in the museum. Examples of their poems can be found at: https://www.albany.edu/futureperfect/poetry.html