University of Vermont

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UVM Campus Sustainability Map Initiative

Old UVM Map
Old print version of UVM campus map (2010), produced as an Adobe Illustrator file.

Project Introduction

Institutions of higher education, like the University of Vermont, are increasingly setting and achieving goals – including operational goals – around sustainability.  Interactive sustainability maps are web-based content platforms, which present information about sustainability projects and features in a compelling and interactive visual format.  A Campus Sustainability Map will be a simple and accessible way to communicate about sustainability at UVM, as well as an information repository for current and potential sustainability projects.

The University of Vermont is well known for attracting environmentally conscious students.  One of the first Environmental Studies programs in the country was founded at UVM in 1972. The University has a long history of tracking and improving environmental sustainability on campus.  The Greening UVM report, released by the newly-formed Environmental Council in 1998, established baseline data on the environmental impact of campus operations. This was followed by Tracking UVM (2002), which detailed the University’s environmental progress from 1990-2000 and received the Vermont Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence in 2004.  In 2007, UVM signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), making an institutional commitment to climate neutrality.   UVM’s Climate Action Plan, released in December, 2010, details UVM’s commitment to eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions, with the goal of reaching climate neutrality in campus operations by 2025.   In 2014, UVM received a prestigious “Gold” rating through STARS (the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System), a program  the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Over the past 25 years, the University has made great strides in understanding and reducing the environmental impacts of campus buildings and operations.  From the Davis Center (the first LEED Gold-certified student center in the country) to student-funded renewable energy projects to the Aiken Center Eco-Machine, sustainability projects continue to grow across campus.  However, no comprehensive portal exists for communicating the story of sustainability at UVM. 

Vision

The Campus Sustainability Map is a bold initiative to develop a web-based platform that will speak to the many stories expressing the University’s commitment to sustainability.  It will also serve as a key resource informing planning discussions as UVM works to achieve its climate and sustainability goals.  An interactive Campus Sustainability Map will provide users – students, faculty, and staff – with information about campus sustainability features and potential in an accessible visual platform, and offers significant academic opportunities for students and faculty to contribute information and gain valuable professional skills.  This tool will create a common core for discussing and understanding what a sustainable UVM means, as well as presenting detailed information useful for campus planning around sustainability into the future.  Over the long term, this platform could serve as a model to be shared by other local partners invested in sustainability goals (like the City of Burlington and Champlain College), amplifying the message and impact of this unique resource.

Project Background

UVM’s efforts to track and develop campus sustainability efforts form the backdrop for the development of the idea for a Campus Sustainability Map.  In 2009-10, the student-funded Clean Energy Fund (CEF) approved a University-wide Energy Display System to implement dashboards (like the ones in the Aiken and Davis Centers) to display the energy usage of campus buildings.

The concept for a Campus Sustainability Map of the University was initiated in a 2012 Campus Sustainability class (ENVS 195).  Under the supervision of Office of Sustainability Graduate Fellow Stephen Posner, students assembled information on sustainability projects and features on campus, and created data layers for a Google Earth map showcasing the sustainability stories at UVM.  

In 2013, the Clean Energy Fund (CEF) approved the Comprehensive Campus Renewable Energy Feasibility Study (CCREFS) project to assess the potential for renewable energy generation on campus.  This study, completed by consultants CHA (along with 3 UVM undergraduates), produced an enormous amount of data on opportunities for renewable energy generation at specific sites across campus, particularly solar PV.  Upon reviewing the results of the CCREFS study, it became clear that an online, interactive map-based functionality was highly desirable for communicating the voluminous and complex data on the potential for renewable energy on campus. 

Project Timeline