A Blueprint for Campus Sustainability

Wednesday, Nov 09, 2022

The Environmental Protection Agency said it plans to use The University of Texas at Arlington as a blueprint on how to design work sessions for campus sustainability.

Last month, the EPA and UT Arlington’s College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs staged an EPA/UTA Campus RainWorks Design Charette exercise. A charrette is a meeting in which all stakeholders attempt to resolve conflicts and map out solutions. Participants included faculty, students, professional alumni, UTA facilities management staff, Office of Sustainability representatives, city of Arlington officials and consultants.

The EPA-funded pilot project linked all the stakeholders to discuss blue-green infrastructure and water planning on campus and how climate change impacts those plans. The event also showcased a campus design interventions exhibit by five students from the landscape architecture program. Speakers included UTA President Jennifer Cowley and John Hall, UTA vice president for administration and economic development.

Clark Wilson, green infrastructure specialist at the EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management, said the federal agency hopes to use the UTA pilot exercise as a model for future campus events at universities across the nation.

“These events highlight how to start blue-green infrastructure projects,” Wilson said. “It’s a way to achieve better health, produce cleaner water, provide equity where needed and address climate change impacts.”

Participants took a campus tour to examine landscaping projects. The afternoon sessions included planning for water-course restoration, creek health, watershed management, biodiversity, flood retention, climate change, trails and amenities.

The Campus RainWorks Challenge pilot program seeks to engage with the next generation of environmental professionals, foster a dialogue about the need for innovative stormwater management techniques and showcase the environmental, economic and social benefits of green infrastructure practices.

UTA students and other attendees at a recent EPA/UTA sustainability exercise.Part of what stakeholders built at the charrette exercise could be used in developing challenges and goals for the next Campus RainWorks Challenge. UTA CAPPA teams have won the EPA challenge twice and were acknowledged three times with honorable mention awards in the 10-year history of the event. 

Taner Özdil, associate professor of landscape architecture and associate director for research at UTA’s Center for Metropolitan Density, is the RainWorks Challenge teams’ adviser. The EPA/UTA core team for the pilot is composed of Wilson; a consulting team led by Lot Locher with One Architecture and Urbanism; Özdil; Jeff Johnson and Don Lange of the UTA facilities management team; Meghna Tare, UTA chief sustainability officer; city of Arlington representatives Lyndsay Mitchell and Gincy Thoppil; and student representatives Hanan Boukhima and Oren Mandelbaum.

“These ideas serve as the beginnings of actual projects on campus, in Arlington and in the DFW community,” Özdil said. “The Campus RainWorks Challenge has served as the start for many of these ideas on campus. This exercise serves the same purpose.”

Originally written by Herb Booth