Campus & Community

Sustainable Stevens: How One Research University Is Planning for a Greener Future

Facility upgrades and leading-edge research help create a more sustainable campus, region, planet

Stevens campus in spring

As Earth Day approaches, Stevens Institute of Technology continues making strides forward to improve the sustainability of systems and facilities, produce a greener campus environmental footprint — and advance leading-edge research addressing pressing global issues such as energy efficiency, climate change and forest preservation.

A truly "green" campus

Stevens' 55-acre hilltop campus is not only green and attractive: it's also environmentally sound.

That's by design.

Bike share station at Stevens
Stevens' sustainability initiatives include a bike-sharing program

"Stevens continues to excel in transforming our campus through the use of modern, sustainable systems," notes Bob Maffia, vice president for facilities and campus operations. "In addition, the new Student Housing / University Center — under construction and slated to be completed during the 2021-22 academic year — is targeted to be LEED-Silver certified."

In 2015 the university received a STARS (Sustainability Tracking and Rating System) Silver rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, a nearly 1,000-member group striving for environmentally friendly campus facilities, social responsibility, and equitable work environments.

Then, in 2017, The Princeton Review denoted Stevens a "green college."

How did it get there? A host of infrastructure upgrades, planned programs and cultural changes:

  • Electric service vehicles have begun replacing gas-powered vehicles on campus, and five electric vehicle charging stations have been installed on campus, with more planned.
  • A comprehensive shuttle network, public-transit program and bike-sharing system encourages students, staff and faculty to commute via more sustainable means.
  • Solar power lights the Eighth Street Parking Lot of Stevens' North Campus at night, and also helps power the Schaefer Athletic Center and other facilities. All those solar panels on campus mean the university emits 5 fewer tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each month than it would under conventional power sources.
  • LED motion-sensor lighting conserves energy, and building-level sub-metering provides detailed information on each campus building’s energy usage — further improving efficiency.
  • The campus recycling program includes single-stream recycling of glass, aluminum, plastic, paper and cardboard, and a bio-digester for composting food waste.
Solar Array facing east toward Manhattan
Solar arrays help power the Stevens campus

"Green roofs atop campus structures, as well as our rain gardens, bio-retention planters and bioswale, also serve as demonstration projects for urban management of stormwater runoff," notes Maffia.

That's not all. The university offers a master's program in sustainability management and a graduate certificate in sustainable energy systems. Weekly sustainability lectures, free and open to the public, feature experts from industry, academia, government and nonprofit sectors to engage a broad audience on critical discussions on sustainability issues. Students participate in annual recycling competitions and the EPA’s Campus RainWorks Challenge.

Graduating students will even wear regalia fabricated from recycled plastics during Stevens' 2019 Commencement ceremonies in May.

"We have made significant efforts to green our campus, and continue to do so," says Maffia.

Research for a sustainable future

Stevens students and faculty also continue to work on a host of research projects to help engineer a cleaner, greener, more sustainable future for the region, nation and planet.

Stevens' SURE HOUSE at Liberty Science Center
Stevens' solar-powered, storm-resistant SURE House now resides at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey

Since 2017, interdisciplinary student teams have competed in the Solar Splash solar watercraft-design competition, improving in position annually. (A Stevens student team triumphed in the Department of Energy's 2015 Solar Decathlon, besting an international field of 16 other teams with their unique design and construction of a zero-energy, storm-resistant solar home.)

Faculty projects also abound:

  • Stevens professor Stephanie Lee was recently chosen for a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to support her continued research on thinner, more flexible, less expensive solar panel materials.
  • School of Systems & Engineering researcher Yeganeh Heyari and her team recently demonstrated the many potential benefits of automated vehicle technologies, which could save the nation's consumers more than $6 billion in fuel costs and create more than $11 billion in health and environmental benefits if built into new vehicles.
  • One of the world's leading "green roof" researchers, professor Elizabeth Fassman-Beck, tests new technology atop a Stevens campus building to filter and cleanse rainfall, gently distributing it into urban collection systems.
Stevens' 2017 Solar Splash team posing around their solar boat in Babbio Center
Stevens' inaugural Solar Splash team took top prize for hull design in 2017

Other faculty also perform environmental and sustainability research, including the development of enhanced battery technologies; the use of artificial intelligence for invasive-insect detection; and improvement of NASA satellite imagery of the planet's landforms and ice packs, useful in monitoring climate change.

"Earth Day reminds us all that sustaining our planet remains an urgent challenge, both for the nation and worldwide," notes Mo Dehghani, Vice Provost for Research, Innovation & Entrepreneurship. "Sustainability science and resiliency planning have never been more important.

"Stevens' talented faculty are contributing to the dialogue daily with new technologies developed in partnership with fellow institutions, key federal agencies and other industry and local partners and stakeholders."