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STRATEGY 4.0 Natural Resources and Ecosystem Services

people walking through the Chicago Circle Memorial Grove with Sears Tower visible in the distance

This strategy calls for UIC to retain and reuse stormwater by following the recommendations of Urban Transformations 2.0 Green Stormwater Infrastructure Implementation Plan as well as to reduce campus water use through building-level water metering and installing manual and low-flow bathroom fixtures. This strategy will also enhance biodiversity per the recommendations of the Campus Habitat Pollinator Plan and the Tree Care Plan.  This will help UIC achieve it's commitment to be a Net Zero Water Campus, a Biodiverse Campus, as well as a Resilient Campus by measuring water consumption usage and stormwater capture, reducing runoff to the City’s Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system from surfaces owned by UIC, and reducing potable water consumption on campus.

These solutions on this page have been updated from what is mentioned in the original report (2018).

Review the original CAIP Strategy 4.0 (2018)


Due to the combined stormwater and sewer system in the Chicagoland region our the fresh water source, Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes, are at increased risk. The Chicagoland region is under “extremely high” stress level for flooding (World Resources Institute – Water Risk Atlas) which can cause  millions of dollars of damage to property and presents a significant liability issue, especially when heavy rains overflow the system, forcing the city to open the overflow points along the river, and in extreme cases, opening the locks and releasing the stormwater that is mixed with sewage back into Lake Michigan – the same source for UIC and the region’s drinking water. Sustainable stormwater management is aimed at retaining water on site for reuse, evaporation or percolation, and preventing runoff to the sewer system. Sustainable water management entails using less water in plumbing and washing and thus reducing water waste into the sewer system.

4.1.1 Green Stormwater Infrastructure Implementation Plan Heading link

student walking in the rain in permeable pavement with no flooding


Increase natural campus flood mitigation strategies through bioswales and landscape alterations by adhering to recommendation in Urban Transformation v2.0 by 2050.

The Landscape Green Infrastructure Design (L-GrID) model (Zellner et al. 2016) was adapted in 2019 to represent the area around UIC’s West and East Campuses. The team from the UIC Institute for Environmental Science and Policy (Zellner and Massey) used the model to assess the effects of different green infrastructure (GI) placement scenarios and concluded that in order to reduce flooding in a cost-effective manner, UIC should prioritize bioswales (rain gardens) when conditions allow.

The Urban Transformations 2.0: A Green Stormwater Infrastructure Implementation Plan for the University of Illinois at Chicago (UT 2.0) outlines many GI installations to reduce stormwater runoff, but coupling those ides with the L-GrID analysis, UIC needs to continue to add rain gardens whenever possible to achieve the goal of 6.5 acres by 2027.

Rain gardens are found at Lincoln Hall (2010), Academic and Residential Complex (2019) and Arthington Mall (2020). Monitoring systems are installed at Lincoln Hall, Parking lot 1A, and Arthington Mall to assess the effectiveness of the GI installations.


Climate Resilience Connection Heading link

Global climate change has significantly greater impacts on the natural environment than simply increasing the average temperature of our environment. Change in precipitation patterns is one of the most prominent outcomes of a warming climate. A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, increasing the likelihood of heavier and more frequent rainfall events.  So it is imperative that UIC take steps to mitigate flood damage to existing infrastructure and by implementating green infrastructure.

Climate Resilience 7.1 ECOSYSTEM SERVICES

4.2 REDUCE WATER USE Heading link

UIC receives nearly 41 inches of rainfall per year on its 244-acre campus, an equivalent of roughly 265 million gallons of stormwater falling on a mix of landscaping, roofs, sidewalks, parking lots, and streets. UIC consumed on average 680 million gallons of water annually between 2012 and 2019 with UIC’s power plants using the majority of water on campus.

A significant component of water use efficiency is prevention and management of piping for central heating and cooling systems. Key strategies to reduce water use include building-level water metering (Solution 4.2.1), and retrofitting restroom fixtures—particularly automatic flushers and/or toilet basins with manual low-flow fixtures (Solution  4.2.2)

4.2.1 Building-Level Water Metering Heading link


Obtain building-level water data by either updating every building with a water meter or by working with the City to install smart meters.

Similar to energy, UIC cannot monitor our water usage if is not accurately measured. UIC tracks water use based on the City’s water bills which uses two types of meters. There are city meters which have manual/estimated readings and there are city meters which can be read remotely and provide actual readings. Only the later type of meters can provide accurate data in order for UIC to reduce its water consumption.

The city identified 113 domestic meters belonging to UIC. UIC is receiving estimates from 81 meters to upgrade the meters to integrate into UIC system.

4.2.2 Manual and Low-Flow Fixtures Heading link

dual flush handle that reads UP for #1 (liquid waste) DOWN for #2 (solid waste). By installing this water saving handle with dual-flush, this facilitiy has demonstrated its commitment to prtotect and preserve the environment. For the system to work, we need your help. Please take a look at the diagram above and push the handle in the direction which best suits your needs. With your assistance, we can do our part to conserve this precious resource.


Replace all automatic and/or high-flow flushers to manual and low-flow fixtures.

The UIC Plumbing Fixtures Standard (22 40 00) was updated and published in FY2022 to require minimum flush rates of no more than 1.28 gpf for toilets and 1.0 gpf for urinals that are both WaterSense labeled . All faucets must have aerators. Toilets are also to be designed to be dual flush.

In 2019, 21 low flow faucets and aerators were installed in five buildings on the east side of campus that were discovered to consume a high amount of water.

Plumbing fixtures are continually retrofitted to low-flow fixtures as budget allows. New projects must install low flow fixtures.

The Sustainability Internship Program (SIP) and an Industrial Engineering Design Team restroom water usage project originally discovered that retrofitting regularly used restrooms currently equipped with automatic and/or high-flow fixtures (to manual and low-flow fixtures) save both a great deal money and water.


UIC covers over 244 acres and some of the largest green spaces in proximity to the Chicago Loop (after the Chicago Park District’s Millennium Park and Grant Park). Preserving this open space for aesthetics and student activities can be accomplished while providing ecosystem services such as landscapes that enhance pollination and are critical to maintaining an active food supply. Integrating biodiversity into campus operations will also aide in stormwater reduction (solution 4.1.1) through native plantings and woodland plants that are beneficial to pollinators (solution 4.3.1) while recognizing the environmental, economic, and human health and well-being benefits of trees (solution 4.3.2).

UIC is also home to resident birds and is a temporary stop to numerous migratory bird species across North America. As an urban university, campus building collision affects numerous migratory and resident bird species. The Biodiverse Campus goal is dedicated to creating a friendly-to-all habitat for all forms of life.  To preserve the health and diversity of the campus ecosystem and eliminate any human-made factors that can pose potential harm to the species, UIC created the Bird Collision Prevention Plan.

A biodiverse campus is a resilient campus as it is better equipped to deal with catastrophes due to climate change and sudden weather events. UIC is proud to help the City of Chicago live up to the motto, “urbs in horto”, city in a garden. Let’s be proud that UIC is a university in a city in a garden, “universitas in urbs in horto”.

4.3.1 Campus Pollinator Habitat Plan Heading link

monarch caterpillar


Increase pollinator habitats to encompass greater percentages of campus land.

Since the publication of the Campus Pollinator Habitat Plan, UIC has incorporated aspects of the plan into all new landscape projects including the types of native plants installed and sustainable maintenance practiced. Signs at the Engineering Innovation Building and at Arthington Mall describe the prairie grasses and other native plants and educate the viewer of the importance of these landscapes to the urban pollinator population.

UIC Building Standards affecting landscaping projects under division 32 Exterior Improvements require an implementation of the Campus Pollinator Habitat Plan. The standards also require projects over $2.5 million to seek SITES certification.

UIC has sought Bee Campus USA certification each year since 2017 which helps to promote pollinator awareness on campus through education and expanding and enhancing pollinators habitats on campus.

Climate Resilience Connection Heading link

The decline of both domesticated and wild pollinators poses potentially serious consequences to natural ecosystems, and also has the potential to affect human food production. A biodiverse plant inventory allows for habitats for a wide range of urban animal life which are essential for ecosystem function as the majority of flowering plants rely on insect pollinators like bees for reproduction. The campus landscaping needs to remain resilient to infestation by insect, fungal, and viral pests, and to storm damage by planting a variety of different species.

Climate Resilience 7.1 ECOSYSTEM SERVICES

4.3.2 Tree Care Plan Heading link

large honey locust trees


Ensure a robust tree inventory by dedicating a funding source to maintain the health of the current tree inventory, prioritizing the large, mature trees; as well as planting new trees to replace any tree lost due to factors like weather, disease, or construction.

UIC is a unique urban university for our green-to-gray infrastructure ratio. Although UIC is comprised of more than 60% impervious land cover, such as buildings, walkways and parking lots, we also enjoy nearly 34 acres of tree cover. Trees account for 37% of UIC’s green space.

Recently, UIC constructed two buildings sited on parking lots. The Academic and Residential Complex, which received LEED Gold certification in 2020 added 63 trees. The Engineering Innovation Building is which received LEED Gold certification in 2021 added 70 trees.

The purpose of the Tree Care Plan is to both educate the UIC community on the necessity of campus forest maintenance, and to also establish guidelines for future care and protection of our campus forest.

The goals of the 2020 TREE CARE PLAN are to:

  1. Help  the  campus  better understand  and  prioritize  the importance  of  maintaining  the current  tree  inventory.
  2. Focus  funding  on  the maintenance  of  the  existing  tree inventory  and implement  tree healthcare.
  3. Shift  focus  after  2025 towards  funding  and  establishing new  tree  plantings  targeting  a campus-wide  goal  of  25%  tree coverage.

The UIC Tree Care Plan notes the following in regards to construction projects that impact trees:

  • The main goal of the Tree Care Plan is to keep as many mature healthy trees as possible since a majority of the trees at UIC consist of both very mature and young trees that are highly vulnerable to climate change factors such as heat, drought and flooding, with a decreasing number of mature trees each year.
  • UIC’s tree replacement policies prioritize the mature trees, while also recognizing construction activities. Therefore, the only way to ensure a thriving tree population is to dedicate funding to maintain the health of our existing trees.
  • According to the Plan, all trees that are removed during the construction process, or are in danger on infringing on a Tree Protection Zone, must be replaced on a caliper-for-caliper basis within the boundaries of the project.
  • Projects that cannot replace total caliper lost in new trees within the project boundary (including trees that cannot properly be protected in our Tree Protection Zone) must replace via compensation of the tree asset value, calculated by a professional arborist. The compensation of the trees will be dedicated to the health and maintenance of existing trees on campus.

UIC’s master plan calls for rapid growth over the next few years and our physical footprint simply cannot accommodate a multitude of 3” trees, and not every project can be sited on hardscapes. Realizing there will be a loss of trees during the construction process is an unfortunate but unavoidable start to campus expansion.

During the design phase of the Outpatient Surgery Center & Specialty Clinics project, it was determined that every tree in the UI Health Hospital Park needed to be removed. Even though many of these trees are in good health, large, and mature, they were still slated for removal. Instead of requiring the project to plant hundreds of small trees around campus, UIC was able to secure an inventory of the area with financial compensation for every tree that was removed.

The project financially replaced all trees removed or damaged during construction based on this information with the promise that UIC will use those funds toward the general university tree care fund to help maintain the health of the other mature trees on campus. The project donated just over $92,000 to the UIC Tree Care Management Program (run by Facilities Management).

We were able to invest in the campus-wide tree inventory in 2021 plus we used the remaining 20% of the funds to invest in the health of our remaining campus tree population. Having current size and valuation for each tree specimen will help ensure we properly invest in the reforestation and ongoing maintenance of the remaining canopy.

This full inventory is essential in allocating our Tree Campus expenditures effectively, as it allows our management to prioritize and strategize what is best for UIC. With an up-to-date inventory we now have a complete idea of what each tree needs to remain healthy and how to project efficiently for potential losses.

OVCAS is currently working with the budget office to  see what effect that will have on the state and ICR budgets before moving to allocate any additional funds for tree care. Additionally, there are some units on campus that may potentially be responsible for their own costs based on the Division of Fiscal Responsibility policy, and that is still being explored.

Climate Resilience Connection Heading link

The campus is prioritizing its role in climate change mitigation by increasing preventivie maintenance to trees with a comprehensive list of diverse species.  Larger tree and plant diversity provides various benefits to social, cognitive, and community health, that directly ties back into the resilience strategy to increase community and campus health. ln the case of resilience, large tree populations contribute to improved air quality by means of carbon sequestration and photosynthetic potential.

Climate Resilience 7.1 ECOSYSTEM SERVICES