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.
"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.
"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.
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:
- Davidson Laboratory researcher Philip Orton, an ocean engineering expert, assists New York City in research on the long-term effects of climate change and sea-level rise on the city's neighborhoods. Davidson Lab experts have helped create resiliency planning for New Jersey Transit, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Philadelphia, among other clients.
- 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.
- A Stevens Center for Environmental Systems (CES) team works to create technologies that enable cleaner, greener military bases, including projects to harvest and burn microalgae biofuel and cleanse streams of wastewater emanating from the facilities.
- Environmental engineering faculty and students are also developing natural technologies and nanotechnologies that appear to effectively remove lead, arsenic, antibiotics and other contaminants from water supplies and soils.
- 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.
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."