More than 120 members of the Rensselaer campus community, including students, faculty, alumni, administration, and staff, participated in the Institute’s inaugural Sustainability Charrette held April 17-18 in the Greene Building. A charrette is an intensive collaborative session in which a group of people draft solutions to a problem in a limited time frame, often in a competition-style atmosphere.
In opening remarks to the participants, President Jackson encouraged the group to be creative and have fun in order to make a difference at Rensselaer and beyond. “I will say it is easy to come up with great ideas for implementation if one had a billion dollars. It is another thing entirely to be both creative and cost effective especially on a campus that is more than 100 years old.
So think large and small. Think about what individuals can do, what teams can do, what an institution can do.”
Over the course of 27 consecutive hours, participants worked in interdisciplinary teams to envision, explore, and examine indepth a wide variety of proposals, roughly grouped into the areas of education, research, operations, and “culture,” or day-to-day behavior.
Some ideas included: constructing a “bio-wall” of growing plants for HVAC filtration a concept developed by the Rensselaer Center for Architecture, Science, and Ecology (CASE), harvesting the methane generated by local composting; developing a co-generation facility to recapture and reuse waste heat energy; installing visible real-time energy monitoring devices to stimulate user-based energy conservation; trayless dining; energy upgrades to buildings; as well as integrating sustainability initiatives into Student Orientation and the First Year Experience, and the creation of a Sustainability Office and a Living and Learning Community centered on sustainability, among others.
The charrette was initiated at the request of President Jackson, with support from the Student Sustainability Task Force (founded in the fall of 2007) and joined by faculty and staff.
“As a top-tier technological research university, with faculty and students engaged in multidisciplinary research enterprises focusing on a breadth of sustainable energy research projects, it is appropriate that Rensselaer engage its own capabilities in this endeavor,” said President Jackson.
The Task Force plans to continue its efforts to improve sustainability awareness, practices, and processes at Rensselaer in order to arrive at suggestions for effective, and cost effective, action.
See video of Sustainability Charrette.