University Innovations




Bryan McLarn, Sustainability Coordinator

This fall NAU will host its own “No Impact Week” challenge. The Office of Sustainability will work collaboratively with departments across the campus to educate the community on the realities of a “no environmental impact” lifestyle.

The idea to host this event originated when Rebecca Campbell, Director of the NAUreads program, chose “No Impact Man” as the freshman year book for 2011. Every freshman who enters Northern Arizona University will read Colin Beavan’s book, “No Impact Man,” and will participate in NAU’s “No Impact Week” challenge.

Following the “No Impact Week” challenge, the NAU Office of Sustainability will implement a mentorship council called the Student Sustainability Ambassadors Program.

The Sustainability Ambassadors will meet regularly at the NAU Student Sustainability Round Table where they will communicate and strategize about the best methods to expand NAU’s culture of sustainability and continue education about the “no environmental impact” lifestyle.

The mission of the Student Sustainability Ambassadors Program will be to increase student engagement in sustainability topics at NAU. The mentorship program will aim to increase students’ experience and professionalism in the growing Professional Sustainability Workforce and the Green Collar Economy.

The Ambassadors will act as liaisons of our culture of sustainability and will directly support students, faculty and staff as the community moves toward carbon neutrality.



Michelle Schwartz and Rick Heffernon, (GIOS)

An ecologist, an engineer, an economist and an ethicist all sit down at a table. What could they possibly have in common? Sustainability.
While each of these experts might view a problem solely from the point of view of a single discipline — one might see it as an engineering problem, another as cost/benefit issue — the payoff is when they all get together. Then they can collaboratively learn about the multiple challenges, impacts and trade-offs involved with implementing any strategy.

The result is a more comprehensive and adaptable solution.

All of this sounds simple, but it isn’t easy to put it in practice. First, university learning has long followed a path of isolated disciplines intellectually and physically walled off from each other. Second, researchers from different disciplines have their own jargon, methodologies, journals and associations.

To break down these barriers, ASU has pioneered a new way to transcend academic firewalls and match scientists and scholars from vastly different disciplines that are addressing the global challenges of sustainability. Through ASU’s leadership, President Michael Crow, Provost Elizabeth Capaldi, and leaders of the university’s Global Institute of Sustainability and its School of Sustainability, a formalized community of Sustainability Scientists and Scholars was established. As such, faculty and research scientists from across ASU were identified and designated a Sustainability Scientist or Scholar in an effort to recognize the significant work underway in the realm of sustainability science, foster new collaborations, and accelerate the pace of discovery.

Today, this community of Sustainability Scientists and Scholars numbers almost 250. They represent a wide spectrum of disciplines in the natural and social sciences, medicine, engineering, mathematics, humanities and the arts. Sustainability science requires a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach, integrating practical experience with knowledge and action. This community continues to grow and will ultimately include members from other research institutions.

The challenges of multidisciplinary collaboration are many, but the potential for discovering critical solutions is huge. By recognizing and facilitating the work of sustainability scientists and scholars, ASU is finding solutions for both local and global sustainability challenges.




Daniel Stolte, University Communications

In a nationwide first, an innovative system recently installed on the University of Arizona’s (UA) campus uses the sun’s energy not only for heating but also for cooling, thanks to an innovative system completed this past May.

At the heart of the solar thermal cooling and pool heating system is an array of 346 argon-filled vacuum tube solar thermal collectors installed on the roof of the UA’s Student Recreation Center. The collectors utilize heat from the sun as a free energy source to drive an absorption chilling system to help keep buildings on campus cool while also heating the Recreation Center’s main swimming pool.

An absorption chiller works similarly to a refrigerator or an air conditioner, except it uses a process relying on heat, rather than electric power.

“A water-glycol mix heated by the sun is pumped through the absorption cooler to produce chilled water which is then fed into the University’s main chilled water loop to provide cooling for campus buildings,” said Ralph Banks, assistant director for engineering at the UA’s Planning, Design and Construction Office and manager of the UA’s Solar Initiative Project. “A by-product of the absorption process is excess heat, which is subsequently used to heat the Recreation Center’s main pool,” Banks said.

According to Banks, heating a large swimming pool, like the Recreation Center’s main pool, requires large amounts of energy for much of the year. The Solar Thermal Array provides a third of the energy needed to heat the pool and offsets the use of natural gas heating.

“The benefit lies in utilizing solar energy in two ways: heating the pool and cooling buildings on campus,’” Banks said. “To our knowledge, no other university campus in the U.S. uses solar energy in this unique application.”

Through its partnership with APS Energy Services and Tucson Electric Power, the university is advancing solar technology awareness and education on campus and the community.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.