In recent years the urgency of addressing climate change has come to the forefront of planning discussions in all sectors of the American economy, and the colleges and universities that nurture the educated workforce that drive that economy are no exception. RMI, and the AASHE recognized the opportunity to work closely with campuses to learn ways to further accelerate their climate-change initiatives, and widely disseminate this learning.
This Innovation Workshop is the third-phase in a two-year initiative to pursue climate-change mitigation programs at colleges and universities. During this workshop, a team of RMI experts convened three representatives from each of the twelve participating campuses, AASHE, and other supporting organizations, in order to refine participant's understanding of the challenges they face and the solutions they can utilize to overcome barriers to campus carbon-reduction efforts.
By identifying the barriers to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from campus operations, and developing solutions in a collaborative research effort, this project aims to result in a comprehensive framework that all types of colleges and universities can consult as they navigate the path to carbon neutrality.
Preceding the workshop, RMI visited the 12 participating campuses to evaluate individual campus programs and initiatives. RMI, through an anonymous donor, is offering seed grants ($35,000-$50,000 per institution) to aid each participating campus in the implementation of a high priority project that advances its climate program.
Workshop activities allowed campus representatives to work with RMI experts to refine their proposals and incorporate integrated design principles into each project. "RMI estimates 25-50 % of operating energy can be saved in existing buildings if you use whole systems renovations," RMI architect James Brew told participants. Several proposed project ideas included installations of solar electric and solar hot water demonstration systems on a student housing complex; assessment of energy efficiency opportunities on a campus; installing energy metering to engage residents and building occupants in conservation; and construction of a small wind farm near campus that would generate electricity for the campus.
n the summer of 2009, RMI will publish the findings from Accelerating Campus Climate Initiatives online, outlining common barriers and targeted solutions for a whole-system approach to achieving low-carbon campus operations. The findings will be a record for participants, and RMI believes other colleges and universities can benefit from this information as they build frameworks for their climate initiatives.
Participating schools include Colorado State University, Furman University, Harford Community College, Lakeshore Technical College, Luther College, Richland College, Tufts University, Unity College, University of Minnesota Morris, University of Missouri, University of Vermont, Yale University.