Loyola University opens facility for environmental sustainability

Loyola University opens facility for environmental sustainability

Loyola University Chicago says its new $58 million Institute of Environmental Sustainability is the only campus development in the nation to house faculty, degree programs, a residence hall and sustainability programming under one roof.

The 217,000-square-foot institute sits a few hundred yards from Lake Michigan on Loyola’s Lake Shore campus. The university describes the complex as four buildings in one: the actual Institute of Environmental Sustainability, which houses various sustainability programs; Blessed Virgin Mary Hall, which houses academic space; San Francisco Hall, a residence hall; and assorted public spaces.

“We are delighted to open this Institute, which is designed to collaboratively address today’s ecological challenges—challenges which disproportionately affect the lives of the poor and marginalized in our world,” says Loyola’s president, Michael J. Garanzini.

The Institute merges four campus programs—the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy, Office of Sustainability, Department of Environmental Sciences, and academic programming at the University’s Retreat and Ecology Campus in Woodstock, Ill.

“The university has made a substantial investment in these new facilities, and it demonstrates the enormous level of commitment that Loyola has to address our critical environmental issues,” says Nancy Tuchman, director of the institute.

Among the sustainability efforts: The university recycles 60,000 pounds of material every month (compared with 17,000 pounds in 2009); 90 percent of construction debris on campus is recycled; tray-free dining in dining halls has reduced food waste by 25 percent; 47 bottle refilling stations and a ban on bottled water on campus have resulted in 400,000 plastic bottles being saved; greenhouse gas emissions have declined 15 percent since 2008; water conservation initiatives saved 58 million gallons of water between 2009 and 2010.

The commitment to sustainability has resulted in significant energy savings. Between 2008 and 2012, Loyola has reduced energy consumption by 32 percent. The school has pledged that all of its new academic buildings will meet at least LEED silver standards for environmentally friendly design.

The institute gets its heating and cooling energy from what the university says is the largest geothermal installation in Chicago: 91 wells, 500 feet deep, that provide more than 700 tons of cooling energy.

Winter heating is supplemented with student-produced biodiesel from cooking oil waste. Rainwater is collected in a cistern and reused for irrigation in the institute’s greenhouse and for flushing toilets.

The institute’s space includes a 3,100-square-foot greenhouse for teaching, research and plant production; an aquaponics system showcase; a glass-floor hallway that provides views of the geothermal system below; a three-story vertical farming demonstration; several laboratories; and research projects involving sustainable food systems and urban agriculture.

San Francisco Hall is attached to the academic facility and has 410 beds. The residence hall is submetered for utilities so that 14 individual residence “neighborhoods” can measure their own electricity use. Thermostats can be operated remotely via smartphones. The facility has a model green residence hall room that shows how students can make sustainable choices in their living spaces.

The architect for the Institute of Environmental Sustainability is Solomon Cordwell Buenz.

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