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Outdoor Sustainability Tour of UIC Transcript

The University of Illinois at Chicago is updating our brutalist concrete jungle to a sustainable urban oasis every day. Let’s experience our green transformations on campus! The UIC Climate Commitments are goals that will help us become a carbon neutral, a zero waste, net zero water and biodiverse campus all by the year 2050.

This is the new Academic Residential Complex that received LEED Gold certification in 2020 through its energy efficient design and its use of sustainable landscaping. This native plant rain garden reduces stormwater and attracts pollinators, helping both our Net Zero Water and Biodiverse Campus goals.

Speaking of reducing stormwater – Did you know that Chicago has a combined sewer system which means when there are heavy rains, some sewage water can flood our basements and the Chicago River- which is super gross! That’s why we are  making improvements to our “ impermeable surfaces”, like our parking lots to help get stormwater out of the sewers.

This parking lot just west of the Behavioral Sciences Building has POROUS CONCRETE below the parking stalls (the darker grey color), which allows the rain water to drain directly back into the ground and out of the storm sewer. This helps to improve water quality of Lake Michigan and of the Chicago River.

Did you know that all new construction and major renovations at UIC must be LEED-Gold certified? Lincoln and Douglas Halls, which contain classrooms on the East side of campus, were the first two buildings on our campus to become LEED Gold certified. They are recognized for their performance in energy efficiency, water use reduction, and biodiversity.

There are a total of 469 photovoltaic panels that soak up the sun’s rays on top of these buildings. These solar energy-producing grids convert solar radiation into electricity that the building can then use to power lights, computers, and other electronics. Solar power eliminates direct greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to our goal of becoming a Carbon Neutral Campus.

Down on the ground, the south end of Lincoln Hall is especially beautiful during warmer months, when many birds and butterflies spend time in the BIOSWALE, which is an area of vegetation that can channel stormwater and filter debris. This bioswale contains a beautiful array of native prairie plants, which contributes to our Biodiverse Campus goal. PERMEABLE PAVERS make up the pathways weaving between Douglas Hall, Grant Hall, and Lincoln Hall, allowing water to pass underground further helping us become a Net-Zero Water Campus.

Did you know that there is a geothermal system that heats and cools the air in Grant, Lincoln, and Douglas Halls?  The system lies below the field just east of University hall and it hosts a vertical labyrinth of pipes that transfer the constant temperature of the earth to the surface.  As tall as University Hall is, that’s how deep the structure sits underground, which is over 100 meters!

Another new building on campus is the Engineering Innovation Building that is expected to get LEED Gold certified. This building has a native grass prairie to the east instead of turf grass to attract pollinators and reduce stormwater. The building’s exterior was designed to help lower the urban heat island effect which is common in urban areas, allowing for great daylighting and views into all spaces.

The corner of Taylor and Morgan streets is a welcoming spot on campus known as the Chicago Circle Memorial Grove which invites people to relax and interact, and contains many sustainable landscape features.

There are many SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPINGS that were planted to minimize future maintenance and watering and reduce stormwater runoff, while also making this area one of the most beautiful spots on campus. The Grove also showcases some of the nearly 5,000 trees all over campus! UIC is among the few universities that participate in the TREE CAMPUS USA program. All together, UIC’s trees help sequester 70,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually, remove nearly 3,000 pounds of air pollutants, and divert nearly 100,000 cubic feet of stormwater each and every year, thus helping to reduce climate change impacts. Want to know the specific tree you are looking at and what benefits it can provide you? Look it up using our UIC Tree Inventory, which is available through our website which is at sustainability.uic.edu.

Over on the west side of campus, you’ll find a 2,000 square foot native prairie garden tucked behind some buildings. Thanks to a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, we were able to convert an area of grass into a pollinator-friendly habitat with over 20 different species of native plants. Pollinators like bees and butterflies are visiting the flowers and increasing biodiversity on campus. Did you know we were the first official Bee Campus USA in the state of Illinois?!

We hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of UIC. If you’d like to learn more about sustainability efforts on campus, or how to get involved as a student, please head to our website at sustainability.uic.edu.