Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sustainability assessment aims to boost global leadership

A yearlong, comprehensive study of campus operations kicks off this month, with a plan to set ambitious goals for sustainability across U-M, with its more than 80,000 faculty, students and staff and 580 buildings.

For more information on the assessment project, visit

The recently formed Sustainability Executive Council, chaired by President Mary Sue Coleman, approved the study — called an integrated assessment — as one of its first major initiatives. The result will be a thorough and multi-layered analysis that will give the university the detailed knowledge and insight needed to make decisions. The assessment also sets the stage for the long-term behavioral changes that will enable U-M to reach its goals and cement its reputation for global leadership.

The Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute and the Office of Campus Sustainability (OCS) will engage teams of faculty, staff and students in the integrated assessment in a coordinated process to gather data, capture a multitude of perspectives, promote buy-in and draw on deep technical expertise.

“This process will provide a strong foundation for an intensified focus on sustainability at the University of Michigan, and allow us to serve as a role model for other organizations striving to engage their communities in bringing about change,” says Coleman.

The assessment has two phases: to establish initial recommendations and to dive more deeply into priority areas identified through the first phase.

In phase one, analysis teams will collect and evaluate data and produce comprehensive reports for seven selected areas, including energy, building construction, transportation alternatives, land and water, food , purchased goods and the culture of sustainability. Faculty members with relevant expertise will lead the analysis teams, which will be staffed by four to six students per team.

An Integration Team will manage the process and coordinate work across analysis teams. A Steering Committee drawn from senior leaders of large campus units will serve as advisers to ensure the process achieves its goals.

As the process moves forward, all stakeholders — students, faculty, staff and alumni — will be encouraged to contribute ideas through town hall meetings and a Web site. The first town hall will be 4-5:30 p.m. Jan. 28 in the Michigan League Ballroom. RSVP is required. Go to

“The ultimate goal is to emerge from the process with a set of goals and a holistic perspective to inform an overall campus sustainability strategy going forward,” said Terry Alexander, executive director of the OCS. “It will help us to take campus sustainability to a new level here at U-M.”

Student involvement is a key feature of the integrated assessment, according to Don Scavia, special counsel to the president on sustainability and director of the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute.

“This is an excellent, action-based learning opportunity for U-M students, where they’ll have the valuable opportunity to participate in a living-learning experience that combines blue-sky thinking with the real world constraints of business operations,” Scavia said.

Analysis teams will produce preliminary reports immediately following the Winter Semester, which will be integrated and presented to the Sustainability Executive Council during the summer. The council will likely select and endorse priority areas to be analyzed further during the Fall Semester, with teams developing more specific recommendations to submit for endorsement in early 2011.

All members of the U-M campus community strongly are encouraged to lend their ideas to the process. Opportunities to contribute will occur both at community town hall meetings and through an online idea submission process. More details on how people can get involved will be published in the Record Update.

Participants include:

Analysis teams: Building Standards — Geoffrey Thun, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning (TCAUP); Energy — Greg Keoleian, School of Natural Resources & Environment (SNRE); Water and Land — Stan Jones and Joan Nassauer, SNRE; Food — Larissa Larsen, TCAUP; Transportation — Jonathan Levine, TCAUP; Goods — Oliver Jolliet, Public Health; Culture — Robert Marans, Institute for Social Research.

Integration Team: Graham Institute, OCS, analysis team leaders and Student Sustainability Initiative board members.

Steering Committee: Don Scavia, Graham Institute; Terry Alexander, OCS; Hank Baier, Facilities and Operations; Brad Canale, College of Engineering; Tony Denton, UMHS; Phil Hanlon, Office of the Provost; Rob Rademacher, Athletics; and Loren Rullman, Student Affairs.