Transforming the University Campus into a Sustainable Community: An Evaluation of Land Use, Smart Growth, and Sustainability at the University of Michigan

EPA Grant Number: SU832511
Title: Transforming the University Campus into a Sustainable Community: An Evaluation of Land Use, Smart Growth, and Sustainability at the University of Michigan
Investigators: Norton, Richard K. , Levine, Jonathan
Institution: University of Michigan
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: September 30, 2005 through May 31, 2006
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Sustainability initiatives to date, including those on college campuses, focus mostly on developing indicators that measure current practice—e.g., building design and energy consumption—against benchmarks of more sustainable practice. In doing so, most of these initiatives largely ignore broader processes that relate to changing land use and transportation patterns over time. These approaches focus on making buildings more sustainable but fail to ask how those buildings might be located and linked to one another to make the communities they comprise, as well as the larger communities within which they reside, more sustainable.

This is the case at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where recent studies by students and university advisory groups have focused on developing indicators of energy and resource use in terms of building design and ongoing operations. While a promising start, they have given little attention to sustainability in terms of land use issues, particularly regarding the relationships between future land use development and corresponding transportation needs.

We propose the development of a scenario-based model that will combine selected sustainability indicators, transportation system analyses, and geographical information systems analyses to evaluate different land development scenarios, focusing primarily on UM’s north campus. The scenarios will be designed to reflect current conditions, build out according to current plans, and two alternative build-out scenarios based on tenets of smart growth. At least one of the alternative scenarios will incorporate input from campus community members. In conducting this study, we will be developing a new approach for thinking about the sustainability of a university campus comprehensively, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of that method, and reporting on the results of that analysis specifically with regard to UM.

In addition to suggesting ways in which the University of Michigan’s academic campuses might be transformed into a more sustainable community, this analytical approach will also have the potential to help members of other universities—as well as comparable non-academic institutions—evaluate the sustainability of current and future land use and transportation options on their own campuses, adding the consideration of these factors to nation-wide campus sustainability efforts.

Supplemental Keywords:

sustainable development, integrated assessment, community-based decisionmaking, built environment, sustainable design, urban form, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Urban and Regional Planning, energy conservation, sustainable development, urban planning, environmental sustainability, green building design, community based, energy efficiency

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final