University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota design project to develop solutions for Twin Cities campus's energy and environmental infrastructure

Zero+ Campus Design Project to provide real-world experiences to U of M students in achieving tangible sustainability outcomes

November 30, 2010

 A first-of-its-kind project led by University of Minnesota landscape architects, architects, environmental scientists, campus planners and facilities managers will use the Twin Cities campus as a laboratory to integrate energy and environmental performance modeling.

The “Zero+ Campus Design Project” is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the university’s College of Design’s Department of Landscape Architecture and School of Architecture, in association with the Institute on the Environment, Capital Planning & Project Management and Facilities Management. The goal of the project is to reduce long-term costs and align campus operations with the content of its teaching and research by developing campus design solutions that have a net-positive effect on the campus’s energy use and storm water, while beautifying the campus.

“Universities, as research institutions and as long-term owners of property, have the opportunity -- and responsibility -- to explore new forms of sustainable practice,” said Tom Fisher, dean of the College of Design. “This project, which will link several disciplines and connect the academic and operational sides of the university, will show how campuses can become models of environmental stewardship.”

The U researchers attempt to integrate the energy model of buildings into the landscape. The practice of energy modeling -- the simulation of how much energy a building might use before it is built -- is well established and required for the design of all new buildings at the University of Minnesota. However, performance modeling of the landscape – storm water, biodiversity, shade and ground cover, and urban heat island – is currently not considered or integrated into the creation of building energy models. Evaporation of water and the shade created by trees can significantly cool the campus, which have a big impact on the energy use of buildings on the campus.

“This is a very exciting project and will provide real-world experiences to University of Minnesota students in achieving tangible sustainability outcomes,” said Jon Foley, director of the university’s Institute on the Environment.

Zero+ is the term used to describe buildings and places that can generate more than the energy they need from renewable sources on site. To achieve a Zero+ Campus would mean that the university would become self-sufficient in terms of energy. Zero also describes the amount of greenhouse gas emissions (which contribute to climate change) that a Zero+ Campus would emit.

Three years of funding for the project have been provided by the university’s Office of the Provost from the late Ann Salovich’s bequest to beautify the University of Minnesota campus.

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