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The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 51.12
Liaison Matthew Williams
Submission Date June 30, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

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

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Ron Chandler
Sustainability Fellow
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 No
Transportation Yes
Waste Yes
Water Yes
Coordination, Planning & Governance Yes
Diversity & Affordability ---
Health, Wellbeing & Work Yes
Investment ---
Public Engagement Yes
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:

• UF’s Department of Physics maintains an on-campus weather station that measures standard meteorological variables as well as insolation and nearby lightning strikes. This data is regularly used by researchers and their students in fields around campus. For example, Dr. Peter Waylen of UF’s Geography Department used solar radiation data provided by this weather station in a recent paper on Florida’s climate (David Keellings, Johanna Engström & Peter Waylen (2015): The sunshine state: investigating external drivers of sky conditions, Physical Geography, DOI:10.1080/02723646.2015.1004995). Other researchers have utilized UF weather station data to study the relationship between weather and building HVAC controls, energy consumption, termites, lake levels in Lake Alice (a lake on UF’s campus), and plant growth. On average, the Physics Department receives 4-5 requests for weather data from researchers per year.

• A faculty member in the Department of Geological Sciences who teaches a course titled Climate Change Science and Solutions requires his students to complete a semester-long research project. Within the past academic years, some of those projects have included the effects and feasibility of installing solar panels on all university fraternities, creating a pamphlet about household energy consumption for customers of Gainesville’s local utility provider, and examining the potential cooling effect of painting all the roads in Alachua County (in which UF is located) a lighter color.

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:

• An undergraduate student majoring in Sustainability in the Built Environment is working with staff in the energy department of UF’s Physical Plant Division on his capstone project, which compares the cost, ease/simplicity, and benefits in terms of energy and water conservation and waste reduction of LEED EB vs Green Globes EB

• A faculty member in the Department of Landscape Architecture has offered two courses on green roof technology since 2008. Both courses have featured the green roof on UF’s Perry Construction Yard as well as possible proposals for green roofs on other existing campus buildings.

• A faculty member in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering has studied the energy savings potential associated with use of different occupancy-based control strategies for HVAC systems. Experimental tests were conducted at Pugh Hall on the UF campus. Results published and presented in, e.g. Siddharth Goyal and Prabir Barooah and Timothy Middelkoop, Experimental study of occupancy-based control of HVAC zones, Applied Energy, 140, pp. 75–84, February, 2015; Yashen Lin and Prabir Barooah and Sean Meyn and Timothy Middelkoop, Experimental evaluation of frequency regulation from commercial building HVAC systems, IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid, 6 (2), pp. 776 - 783, 2015.

This experimental work on energy efficiency and optimization of building HVAC systems conducted in Pugh Hall has also resulted in two PhD dissertations and two master’s theses.

• Since the fall semester of 2014, faculty in the College of Design, Construction, and Planning have hosted Green Building Strategies: LEED Lab (DCP 4930), a course that uses the university as a laboratory for greening the built environment through implementation of LEED for Existing Buildings and Operations and Maintenance. The course is composed of undergraduate and graduate students studying architecture, engineering, sustainability, interior design, and planning. The course involves managing an actual project with site visits, investigations, data collection, audits using instrumentation, and collaboration with the building manager, utility provider(s) and other stakeholders.

In this course, students learn about campus operations and stakeholders, develop policies/directives related to building operations and maintenance, use utility data analysis and energy star ratings, and conduct water audits and transportation surveys. The goal of the course is to arm students with the knowledge, hands-on experience, confidence, and the ability to collaborate on and manage projects.

A similar course, focusing on LEED for new construction and major renovation, has been offered since 2006, but without the active participation of students on campus projects. This year (2015), the course syllabus was significantly revised to include the same active learning and campus as a living lab components as the LEED EB course described above.

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:

• The University of Florida contracts with Aramark for its dining services. Aramark has a dedicated sustainability manager on campus who regularly provides data to and works with journalism students to disseminate information about sustainable food programs and practices (e.g. composting, locally sourcing produce, tray-less dining, discounts for re-usable cups, etc.) to the campus community. Many of these programs happen behind-the-scenes and turnover of the population on campus is rapid, so the need is continuous to educate students, faculty, and staff and encourage their active support and participation in these and related sustainability indicatives at UF.

Aramark also provides approximately 200 lbs/day of coffee grounds and lemon rinds from one of the on-campus dining centers to the UF Organic Garden Cooperative. This cooperative offers students the opportunity to learn and practice organic growing techniques, including effective composting.

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:

• Undergraduate student interns with the Office of Sustainability are in the process of developing a basic office energy model customized to the types of office equipment common in University of Florida workspaces through direct metering of office equipment and consultation of the scientific literature. This project is a key component of UF's new sustainable offices and sustainable laboratories program ("G.R.O.W."). It will allow students and staff involved with GROW to estimate the energy savings associated with behavior modification within the office and laboratory environment (e.g. implementation of computer energy saving settings, lighting adjustments, consolidation and retirement of printers, refrigerators, etc.).

• UF’s Energy Department (within the Physical Plant Division) has worked closely with students and faculty to provide detailed data on campus building systems, operations, and energy use for research.

Example student project: a student recently analyzed how much solar PV capacity would be needed to make a building on campus carbon neutral.

Example faculty research: faculty member in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and his graduate students used data from UF’s Energy Department to create and test an hypothesis called “Buildings as Batteries,” wherein they replicated the energy discharged and recharge of a large scale battery using the various VFD’s in the building. Another research group in the Department of Building Construction used UF energy data to create a graphical representation of energy usage on campus at any given time. And recently, a PhD student began working on energy consumption prediction models based on this data.

Students in industrial engineering courses have also partnered with the Physical Plant Department on numerous on-campus projects. Project topics include:
1. evaluating use of green transformers at campus buildings
2. evaluating use of Vending Mizers on UF vending machines
3. evaluation and replacement of older lighting technologies in UF museum facilities
4. evaluation of the use of a Power Guard that was recently installed on a UF water chiller plant
5. steam trap survey re-evaluation to better constrain steam efficiency estimations and identify potential savings
6. lighting surveys using scotopic and photopic light readings
7. testing the usage of ”remote switched” or “occupancy switched” power supplies
8. energy metering across campus
9. evaluation of building envelopes

A fraternity on campus has also been partnering with the Energy Department to assist with an external lighting audit and AHU zone mapping.

• Faculty in UF’s School of Construction Management and the Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure and the Environment studied the impact of LEED certification on building energy consumption by comparing the Energy Use Intensity (EUI) of 10 LEED-certified and 14 non-LEED certified buildings on the University of Florida campus. Their results are published in the journal Sustainable Cities and Society (Energy use assessment of educational buildings: Toward a campus-wide sustainable energy policy. Policy. Duzgun Agdasa, Ravi S. Srinivasan, Kevin Frost, Forrest J. Masters. Sustainable Cities and Society 17 (2015 15-21).)

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:

• UF’s Grounds Department is working with two graduate students who are using the campus environment for their research. One is studying lizard populations and the other is looking at pedestrian and vehicular traffic around selected trees.

• The undergraduate Urban Forestry FOR4090 class is in the process of completing an assessment of UF's urban forest ecosystem. As part of their assessment, they have used monitoring plots and models to estimate carbon offsets, invasive tree abundance, change in tree canopy over the last few years, etc. Their semester project will be written up into an extension education type report.

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:


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:

• UF’s Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) regularly works with students in diverse courses who request data about parking spaces, parking decal sales, and citations. Professional staff from TAPS provide and discuss the data with students, who use the information in class projects. As a result of working with TAPS, students develop an understanding of the complex logistical considerations (environmental impact, economic cost, impact on the local community and infrastructure, etc.) that govern transportation decision-making on a campus the size of a small city.

• Two undergraduate students are working with the Office of Sustainability to design, operate, and improve a bike share program for university departments. UF has a large campus and fully-utilized parking; for these reasons, faculty and staff often find traveling across campus to meetings or research facilities a challenge. Parking nearby is often not available and distances are too great to comfortably cover on foot. The undergraduate students who work on this program repurpose bicycles that have been abandoned on campus – making necessary repairs and distributing the bikes to academic and operational departments that request them. The students are in regular contact with participating departments to study how and how often the bikes are utilized, to identify barriers to use, and to determine program modifications that would improve the effectiveness of the program and divert on-campus personal-vehicle transportation to more sustainable alternatives (e.g. bicycle travel).

• A student studying transportation engineering recently completed a project with a faculty member in the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering Transportation Program to study pedestrian crosswalks on campus to determine the factors that influence driver yielding and pedestrian crossing. The result of the project was a set of models that could be used for sustainable transportation design and analysis.

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:

• During the 2013, 2014 and 2015 football seasons, the Office of Sustainability and numerous undergraduate interns and student volunteers worked toward a zero-waste football season. The highest single-game waste diversion rate during these three seasons was nearly 70%. Student interns and volunteers are active drivers of this program – interacting with fans and vendors to continuously adapt and improve both the logistics of this program as well the education and communications campaign that accompanies the operational components. Based on student observations and suggestions, the final game of the 2014 season was used to pilot a new strategy of posting one waste “ambassador” at each pair of composting and recycling bins to communicate directly with fans about how to sort their waste. The results of this pilot program were used to inform operational strategies during the 2015 season.

• UF’s Physical Plant Division has worked and continues to work closely with students and researchers throughout the University of Florida on the composting of organics and compostable containers and cutlery from UF facilities, the generation of energy from organics at UF (e.g. via methane digesters, biofuels, etc.), audits of the campus-wide and facilities-specific waste streams, more sustainable landfill management techniques and technologies, and composting education and outreach.

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:

• Students in the multidisciplinary course Landscape Architecture Design Implementation (LAA 4450) design and complete a full set of construction documents for a project that integrates the principles of construction with design on UF’s campus. Students from this course won back-to-back national championships in 2012 and 2013 for the EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge for designs of green infrastructure on the UF campus – a feat that no other university has achieved. The RainWorks competition was created by EPA to inspire the next generation of landscape architects, planners, and engineers to develop innovative green infrastructure systems that mitigate the impacts of urban stormwater while supporting vibrant and sustainable communities. The UF students’ work is featured on the EPA websites: http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/greeninfrastructure/crw_winners.cfm#Florida and http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/greeninfrastructure/crw_2013winners.cfm

This course also prepared designs for UF’s 2009 entry into the Solar Decathalon. That structure, which incorporated water and energy conservation as key features, has since been erected in the UF Energy Research Park.

• Of the 5500 sqft in the administration and lab building associated with UF’s on-campus wastewater treatment plant, 1650 sqft are dedicated to academic research. Additionally, the Physical Plant Division conducts numerous tours of the facility for UF courses, enabling students to learn how the topics discussed in class are directly applied to campus operations.

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:

• Students and faculty are voting members on the Campus Master Plan Steering Committee, the Sustainability Committee, the Lakes Vegetation and Land Use Committee, the Transportation Committee, and the Diversity Committee, among others. Through their involvement on these committees, UF students and faculty help guide the university’s planning process and governance toward a future that advances sustainability initiatives and that meets the diverse needs of different campus communities (e.g. students, faculty, operational staff, administration, and community partners).

In recent large initiatives, students and faculty at UF have had direct and critical involvement in the 2015 update to the Campus Master Plan as well as the Reitz Union Lawn study through their involvement on the aforementioned committees and through public comment. Additional details about the campus master plan and Reitz Union Lawn study follow.

Campus Master Plan:
Every 5 years the University of Florida must prepare and publish an update of its Campus Master Plan. The Master Plan is a document that guides future growth in a sustainable fashion on campus, by evaluating sites, protecting significant resources and guiding the development process. In order to gain feedback from Faculty, Staff and Students, the University appoints a representative group form each of these constituencies to review plan documents and offer suggestions that help make the document(s) and planning process more inclusive. For the 2015-2025 Master Plan, two student representatives were appointed and expressed concerns on issues important to students over a one year process.

Reitz Union Lawn Study:
The Reitz Union Lawn is a remnant of green space that has been preserved since the University’s inception. Originally, the green space concept was much larger/longer in size, running through the middle of campus. However, over the years portions of the green space were developed, fragmenting the original space into distinct areas, such as the Reitz Union Lawn. In November 2012, the University undertook a yearlong planning exercise to create a guide for how redevelopment of landscape features should proceed in a congruous fashion for the Lawn and to help define the boundaries of the space for future preservation. The planning process involved the hiring of a Landscape Architectural firm to analyze the space, involve stakeholder and make recommendations. The landscape team in association with stakeholders from faculty, staff and students held charrettes to identify important features and issues in the current design and to review the suggested results. Student groups included members of Student Government, cyclist, and student users of the Reitz Union who were interested in making the space safer and more functional from their perspective. The master plan effort proceeded to analyze and develop alternative long range strategies for future development of the open space study area with the goal of partially implementing the results of the study as part of the current Reitz Union expansion.

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:


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:

• The Care One Clinic is a UF-affiliated outreach organization that seeks to meet the unique needs of patients who are frequent visitors to the UF Shands ER. Care One accomplishes this by collaborating with a team of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and psychologists to determine whether patients need additional testing or referrals to primary or specialty care. The director of Care One has IRB approval for studying the positive impact Care One is making on reducing ER visits, admissions, and hospital costs for uninsured and insured patients. She has presented posters on the clinic and receives continuing grant funding to cover clinic costs.

• In 2016 UF Department of Landscape Architecture is conducting research on campus and in the surrounding urban area for understanding the effect of urban green spaces on human health and happiness. Results of this research are expected to inform design strategies for improvement of especially mental health.

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:


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:

• During the spring 2014 semester, senior Public Relations students from UF’s College of Journalism and Communications developed the Beat Waste (#beatwaste) campaign to increase campus-wide awareness and participation in UF’s zero waste football stadium initiative. Through Karma PR, a student-run PR agency at the University of Florida, the students conducted qualitative and quantitative research to determine the most effective methods of communicating about and garnering active participation in UF’s efforts to minimize waste production during football games. Currently, almost all products sold in the stadium are either recyclable or compostable; however, this is not common knowledge among fans. The main challenge is therefore educating fans about the university’s stadium waste program and motivating them to participate by properly sorting their waste into the appropriate containers/bins.

After analyzing their research results, the students at Karma PR decided to creatively target Gator fans’ sense of pride and competitive school spirit to drive participation in this sustainability program. Due primarily to time constraints, the Beat Waste campaign was not formally implemented for the 2014 football season. However, the students’ research and recommendations have already and will continue to inform the Office of Sustainability’s communications about and logistical improvements to the football stadium zero waste program.

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:

In 2016 an honors student in University of Florida’s (UF) Sustainability in the Built Environment Program (DCP) began interdisciplinary thesis research guided by Faculty in DCP, and Office of Sustainability’s Sustainability Psychologist. The purpose of this research is to develop greater understanding of effect of media imagery on UF students’ response to sustainability-related issues, and to compare responses to students’ programs of study, housing location, use of campus green space, and location of their principal college building with respect to green spaces.

One intended application of results of this research is to inform students and Faculty about others perception of sustainability issues, illuminate possible factors effecting these perceptions, and to suggest opportunities to improve student understanding of and involvement with sustainability issues in context of UF campus.

The website URL where information about the institution’s campus as a living laboratory program or projects is available:

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.