The University shall promote innovative, high visibility research projects focused on sustainability and energy efficiency to inform campus operations as a whole as well as the broader community and promote colaborative projects that include faculty research undertaken in partnerships with operations staff, students, public entitites, community organizations, and industry.
- Affordable Housing
- Assessing Economic Value to the Environment
- Biotechnology Institute
- Center for Changing Landscapes
- Center for Environment and Health Policy
- Center for Environment and Natural Resource Policy
- Center for Hardwood Ecology
- Center for Integrated Natural Resource and Agricultural Management
- Center for Science, Techology and Public Policy
- Center for Sustainable Building Research
- Center for Urban Ecosystems and Sustainability
- Comparative Environmental and Economic Systems Analysis of Corn Stover Logistics Options for Cellulosic Ethanol Production
- Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment and the Life Sciences
- Department of Geography Environmental Change Research Cluster
- Developing and Evaluating an On-Farm Hydrogen Fueling Station
- The Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Initiative
- Environmental Resources Spatial Analysis Center
- Enzymatic Synthesis of Biomethanol
- Great Lakes Northern Forests Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit
- Global Warming and Carbon Sequestration
- Green Lands, Blue Waters
- Hydrology, Watershed Management, and Water Quality
- Interagency Information Cooperative
- Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change
- Institute for Social, Economic and Ecological Sustainability
- Liquid Fuels from Biomass: In Integrated Biorefinery Approach
- Metropolitan Design Center
- Minnesota 2050: Pathways to a Sustainable Future (Interdisciplinary Research Program)
- Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station
- Minnesota Sustainable Building Guidelines
- Minnesota Technical Assistance Program
- Non-Point Source Pollution
- University of Minnesota Regional Partnerships
- Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Laboratory
- St. Paul Campus Bioenergy Inventory
- Sustainability and Corridor Planning
- Sustainable Campus Initiative
- Sustainable and Organic Horticulture
- Sustainable Technologies Applied Research (STAR) TEA-21 Project
- TechPlan: Transportation Planning and Policy Applications of ITS-Related Technologies
- Water Resources Center
- Windows and Glazings
The College of Design’s Center for Sustainable Building Research (CSBR), with support from the McKnight Foundation, is working with state and local funders and developers through the Minnesota Sustainable Housing Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to lead and support the transformation of affordable to sustainable practice. The initiative is developing a regional knowledge base and technical assistance program focusing on the development of tools and methods to evaluate real performance outcomes addressing the cost, energy efficiency, health, durability, and environmental impacts of the housing.
Too often decisions are made without concern for a project’s environmental impact, and, as the Economic Valuation of Ecosystem Services study would argue, this is due in part to the fact that environmental aspects are rarely given monetary values, something that drives the majority of decisionmaking. In collaboration with the Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Initiative and the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, Dr. Stephen Polasky, Fessler-Lambert Chair of Environmental Economics, is beginning to assign economic value to the environment to help resolve this issue. Essential requirements provided by the environment, such as that of drinking water, as well as ecosystems themselves, will arguably factor more readily and comprehensively for decision makers when given these monetary values, an important aid in the actual development of a sustainable society.
Energy from renewable resources has become an area of research focus for several of the faculty. Their approach is innovative and brings a fresh look at ideas to diminish reliance on fossil fuels and to stem the generation of green house gases as world energy consumption continues to rise.
As a catalyst for linking expertise in natural resources management, architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design, the Center for Changing Landscapes addresses issues of social, economic, and ecological sustainability in changing rural, urban, and urbanizing landscapes. The Center for Changing Landscapes is a partnership between the College of Design and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
The Center for Environment and Health Policy has focused on two major areas: improving assessment, management, and communication of environmental health risks; and fostering better environmental policy decisions.
The Center was established in 1984 to facilitate interdisciplinary studies on the issues associated with natural resource management, including sustainability. The Center shares its collective ideas through conferences, symposia and seminars, in book and journal formats, and through the Center’s Working Papers. Additionally, Center faculty serve in an advising/consultative role for government and industry on policy issues and process as appropriate.
Hardwood forests dominated by maple and oak were an important and widespread native ecosystem that attracted settlement and development in Minnesota and elsewhere in the region. Major problems such as fragmentation, changes in disturbance regime, fire suppression, increased grazing of plants by deer, potential climate change, and invasion of exotic species threaten the existence of these ecosystems and limit the potential for their renewed regeneration and restoration in the region. The Center for Hardwood Ecology brings together an interdisciplinary group of ecologists to study ecological processes at the physiological, community, and landscape levels, and to apply findings to management initiatives.
Since its initiation in July 1995, the Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management (CINRAM) has brought together diverse groups to catalyze the development and large-scale adoption of integrated and sustainable land use systems. The Center established many effective linkages within the University and with many county, state, and federal agencies and organizations outside the University that are active in natural resources and agricultural management. CINRAM will continue to coordinate the activities of the Minnesota Agroforestry Coalition and raise awareness statewide of the need for integrated land use systems.
The Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy explores the increasingly important role that science and technology plays in our society and examines its implications for public policy at the international, national and state levels. Faculty at the Center offer a number of courses in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy and also conduct research workshops, seminars, roundtables and symposia to inform local and national decision-making. The Center has focused its research and outreach activities primarily on issues relating to energy, the environment and climate change.
In the interest of advancing sustainable design practices, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Building Research (CSBR) conducts research and leads outreach programs on topics ranging from the University’s overall level of ecological consciousness to specifics such as energyefficient windows. With projects sponsored by organizations such as the United States Department of Energy and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Center has evaluated the performance and design of many buildings throughout the state, as well as conducted research on energy efficiency of materials and glazings. By creating sustainable design and materials guides, in addition to formulating guidelines for state-funded buildings, CSBR emphasizes the importance of making these resources accessible, enabling students and practicing designers to incorporate tested sustainable practices into their work.
As the Center for Urban Ecosystems and Sustainability (CUES) advocates, environmental stewardship needs not be restricted to the remaining forests and other natural ecosystems beyond the city. Instead, CUES works to educate the general public on how to bring ecological consciousness to urban ecosystems by conducting research and making available a number of resources through their resource center, Andersen Library, and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. By covering issues ranging from the restoration of native vegetation to integrated pest management, the Center provides the information needed for incorporating attractive and sustainable landscaping to the built environment.
Comparative Environmental and Economic Systems Analysis of Corn Stover Logistics Options for Cellulosic Ethanol Production
Corn stover is the largest underutilized crop in the U.S. Logistics models for conventional energy systems, which involve large-scale central processing and long-distance transportation, prove limited applicability for corn stover-derived biofuel system due to the high logistics cost including that for handling, storage, and transportation of low energy-density corn stover. The goal of this research project is to identify the best logistics option that can reduce the cost and the life-cycle CO2 emissions for handling, storage, and transportation of corn stover for ethanol production.
In an age of scientific advancement that has created the potential for growing human organs and provided new ways of creating life, dealing with the subsequent ethical issues is of utmost importance. With the new millennium, University of Minnesota faculty were aware that our methods for dealing with new developments in science with regard to ethics, public policy, and law was lagging behind. The Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment, and the Life Sciences was founded in 2000 to help close this gap. Bringing together a number of established organizations from the Center for Bioethics and the Stem Cell Institute to the Water Resources Center and the Institute on the Environment, the Consortium hosts conferences and lectures on topics including environmental ethics, encourages students to take University courses and pursue careers focusing on the societal implications of life science and environmental issues, and conducts research on interdisciplinary topics that require ethical, scientific, and legal expertise.
The focus of the department’s environmental research theme is to better understand the earth’s interconnected environmental systems (vegetation, climate, water, and soil). Research is motivated by questions about the character of this environment and why and how it changes. Understanding the causes and impacts of environmental change in the distant or recent past helps to shed light on the possible impacts of future changes, whether these changes are or are not human-induced.
The objectives of the project are to determine the feasibility of scrubbing biogas and making hydrogen for on-farm utilization; to convert the purified biogas into hydrogen; to develop an on-farm hydrogen fueling station to refuel at least one type of vehicle (modified to use hydrogen) commonly used on farms; to evaluate the economics of making hydrogen for on-farm use versus the current on farm production of electricity for export to the electrical grid; and to evaluate and suggest public policy that is necessary for this development.
The Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Initiative, made possible by a grant from the Archibald Bush Foundation, explores the potential for synergy between current socioeconomic systems and environmental interests. In creating an intellectual community that stresses interdisciplinary cooperation, the Initiative seeks to bring ecological principles into our everyday lives and work, hoping to sustain the livelihoods of the public and the environment. In order to do so, the Initiative has developed a Sustainability Studies minor, offers outreach programs to educate teachers and journalists on sustainable issues, and collaborates with a number of University organizations on various research projects, including formulating a Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan.
The Environmental Resources Spatial Analysis Center (ERSAC) was established in 1995 to develop a unified computing environment for research on spatial analysis and modeling of natural resources and the environment. Acquisition of state-ofthe-art computer, network, and software facilities has enabled researchers in eight departments and five colleges on the Twin Cities Campus to effectively use geographic information systems and related geospatial technologies in research on spatial patterns and relationships of natural resources and the environment at landscape to regional scales. The unified approach to providing of hardware-software facilities has increasedcapability and productivity, while decreasing costs compared to the more traditional purchase and administration of facilities by individual departments.
The goal of this study is to promote efficient and clean synthesis of easy-to-handle liquid fuel, methanol, from nonfermentable Minnesota biomass-derived carbon sources.
The Great Lakes Northern Forests Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (GLNF CESU) was formally authorized in August 2002. It is part of a national network of CESUs and stretches from Minnesoa to Maine, including all or part of 13 states. The mission of the GLNF CESU is to conduct a program of research, technical assistance, and education that involves the biological, physical, social, and cultural sciences needed to address, manage, and preserve Great Lakes Northern Forest ecosystems in a rapidly changing social, economic, and environmental landscape. In addition to the host university, the University of Minnesota, GLNF CESU has 16 university partners, nine nongovernmental organization partners, and six federal partners.
Predicted global warming calls for a reduction of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. This research documents the flux of carbon dioxide at the soil-air interface and investigates ways to sequester photosynthate-C into soil organic matter through agricultural management practices.
The evolution of sustainable agriculture is of utmost importance to the industry’s future, and one University of Minnesota-sponsored program is advocating sustainable practices in an uncommon way: by the use of perennials. Green Lands, Blue Waters (GLBW), a program with many cooperating organizations throughout the Mississippi River Basin, promotes the many advantages of using perennials and other continuous living cover in agriculture, such as the restoration of wildlife habitat, the improvement of water quality, and the reduction of flooding. In collaboration with the University’s Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, GLBW attempts to bring these issues to the attention of farmers and agriculturally-oriented organizations throughout the Mississippi basin, meanwhile targeting land that will have the most environmental impact and strengthening marketing strategies, among many other projects.
Research in this area centers on land use and vegetation management and their effects on water quantity and quality. The goals of this research are to evaluate and quantify watershed management effects and to develop practical models that predict hydrologic and water quality changes due to land use. Results are used to develop better management practices for water quantity, quality, and watersheds in general.
The Interagency Information Cooperative (IIC) is a partnership between the Minnesota Forest Resources Council, Minnesota Association of County Land Commissioners, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Land Management Information Center, University of Minnesota, and the USDA Forest Service. This Cooperative and its site maintain a vast amount of information on Minnesota’s forest and related natural resources. This information is fundamental to planning and management for sustainability.
The Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) works to foster an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural community of faculty and students committed to studying global change; to provide intellectual and financial support for graduate and professional school students focusing on the contemporary developing world; and to provide enabling grants to graduate and professional-school students at the University of Minnesota for internships and predissertation fieldwork in the developing world as part of their training programs. Also, the Center organizes interdisciplinary faculty-student seminars and workshop series on major theoretical, comparative and methodological issues related to the developing world and offer ICGC scholars a graduate minor field in Development Studies and Social Change.
The Institute for Social, Economic, and Ecological Sustainability (ISEES) believes that a sustainable society is one that balances economic development, ecological concerns, and the general well being of all individuals. To aid in the establishment of such a society, the Institute has focused on the education of the present and coming generations by hosting the Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Initiative, which has created an undergraduate minor in Sustainability Studies and works to educate our teachers and journalists on ecological issues. Having also formulated programs on sustainable aquaculture and the governance of biotechnology, ISSES stresses interdisciplinary research and works to educate students about the importance of collaboration between fields in their coming careers.
The purpose of this project is to develop an unbiased and thorough assessment of the energetics, economics, kinetic constraints, technical and commercial barriers, and environmental impact of producing liquid fuel from non-food biomass. The ultimate goal is to determine if this is a viable opportunity for the state of Minnesota.
Metropolitan Design Center outreach and research projects focus on the design of sustainable metropolitan landscapes and livable communities. Outreach projects provide design alternatives for affordable housing, multi-functional streets, open spaces, neighborhoods, and city districts. Current research projects focus on emerging analytics of “footprints” of transit-oriented developments, integrative intermodal design, and planning and design parameters of multifunctional urban and suburban landscapes. Across all of this work, Design Center expertise focuses on the morphologies of multimodal streets and street networks, integrative infrastructure, and hydrologically-sensitive building and landscape complexes to enhance ecosystem services and human health. Design Center projects also focus on the media of design and the complexity involved in design communication and policy formation across scales encompassed by metropolitan issues of sustainability.
With current trends in land consumption, population growth, and habitat depletion, a Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan is of the utmost importance in maintaining what natural habitat and landscape remains in Minnesota. In collaboration with the University’s Institute on the Environment, the Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Initiative has begun collecting information on statewide energy, water, and land consumption, as well as food production and environmental quality, to make predictions about Minnesota’s future and develop the needed statewide plan. Further, by creating various scenarios for future Minnesota, some of which are favorable and others not, these two organizations will help showcase how Minnesotans might change their actions and governmental policies to make the favorable outcomes occur.
MAES funds faculty researchers in five colleges at the University of Minnesota, as well as research at Research and Outreach Centers across the state. This research supports Minnesota’s natural resources and agricultural industries, as well as improving the quality of life of Minnesotans through research on food, human nutrition, and family and community development.
The Center for Sustainable Building Research (CSBR) led a team to develop sustainable building design guidelines that apply to all new buildings funded by the State of Minnesota. The Center provides assistance to state agencies and tracks performance of the buildings. The guidelines are designed to:
- Exceed existing energy code by at least 30 percent
- Achieve lowest possible lifetime costs for new buildings
- Encourage continual energy conservation improvements in new buildings
- Ensure good indoor air quality
- Create and maintain a healthy environment
- Facilitate productivity improvements
- Specify ways to reduce material costs
- Consider the long-term operating costs of the building including the use of renewable energy sources and distributed electric energy generation that uses a renewable source of natural gas or a fuel that is as clean or cleaner than natural gas.
To help businesses select and implement systems that reduce pollution, maximize resource efficiency, and lower energy inputs, the University of Minnesota has developed the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP). Offering aid free of charge through funding from such organizations as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, MnTAP provides assistance over the phone, through personal visits, or by student internships at the inquiring businesses, bringing together past solutions or creating custom systems to meet a business’s needs. The program, also working to reduce overall waste, increase a company’s costeffectiveness and create a safer environment for workers, has been able to reduce businesses’ waste and emissions by 3.58 million pounds and lower material and disposal costs by $1.4 million, all within last year alone.
Substantial inputs of agricultural chemical and animal wastes are applied to croplands throughout Minnesota. Protecting water resources while maintaining acceptable agricultural production levels is important to farmers throughout the state, and several faculty members have been working on different aspects of agricultural impact on surface and subsurface water quality. This includes quantifying the mechanisms of non-point source pollution as well as developing management practices that alleviate this pollution.
The University of Minnesota Regional Partnerships combine citizen leadership with the research and education resources of the University to foster long-term sustainability in the state, with particular attention focusing on agriculture, natural resources, renewable energy (which includes the Clean Energy Resource Teams), and tourism. The partnership operates under three principles: active citizenship, which involves local citizen participation in designing and implementing projects in the region; sustainable development, which addresses issues according to sustainable principles; and University of Minnesota involvement. The five regional citizen-faculty Board of Directors envisions a sustainable future for the state and supports targeted projects to achieve this vision, with funding provided by the Minnesota Legislature through the University.
The Laboratory was established in 1995 to develop a unified computing environment for research on spatial analysis and modeling of natural resources and environment. The RSGL operates a large network connecting more than 30 workstations and advanced graphics storage and capability plus wide-ranging applications software, including ArcGIS, ERDAS Imagine, MySQL, and S-Plus. The RSGL provides state-ofthe- art capabilities for image processing, mapping, modeling, statistics, and visualization. The RSGL also includes a wide array of input-output devices including digitizers, image scanners, printers, and large format plotters. The Lab provides for extensive research capability in support of sustainability issues.
In pursuit of a comprehensive, environmentally friendly, and economical plan for handling organic wastes on St. Paul Campus, this research project will create an inventory of organic waste sources that could be used as feedstock for a digester on St. Paul campus for transforming the wastes into bioenergy and value-added organic products. Also, researchers will conduct an inventory of electrical and thermal energy needs on the St. Paul campus that could use the bioenergy from a digester, as well as analyze the economics of a bioenergy unit including capital and operating expenses, energy production and savings, value-added organic products, savings from reduced waste hauling charges, and environmental impact for reduced fossil fuel use.
With their inherent complexities, corridor projects pose many challenges for planners and designers. At the same time, successful corridor development offers many rewards to those community members who benefit from improved mobility, economic growth, and sustainable development, as well as to those planners and officials who are responsible for charting the corridor’s course and whose work results in healthier, more livable communities. This research, conducted by the State and Local Policy Program at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, helps identify best practices in sustainable transportation corridor development by analyzing a project’s governance, financing, economic impacts, design, and citizen participation processes.
In the interest of furthering sustainability education at the University, the Sustainable Campus Initiative was established by a group of staff, faculty, and students to take advantage of the unique academic opportunities provided by various campus operations. Since its origin in 2000, the Initiative has hosted and facilitated discussions to instigate these partnerships, resulting in such programs as the Sarita Wetland Restoration Project, an undertaking that aids stormwater management at the University and also provides an opportunity for research and hands-on education. The Initiative has also undertaken important research on the University’s overall environmental impact, all in hopes that the campus will become increasingly ecologically conscious both in its educational and operational efforts.
Reducing synthetic inputs in horticultural production systems and developing new production systems are important for farm profitability and environmental health. The Department of Horticultural Science actively conducts research to reduce pesticide use in the production of fruits and vegetables and on environmentally friendly cropping systems.
The Humphrey Institute’s State and Local Policy Program has been working with the University of Minnesota’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute to conduct a set of federally sponsored studies on how transportation systems can be planned in an increasingly complex social, political, economic, and technological environment. This project has been completed as of December 31, 2007, and has been succeeded by the TechPlan: Transportation Planning and Policy Applications of ITS-Related Technologies.
The Humphrey Institute’s State and Local Policy Program continues to work with the University of Minnesota’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute at the Center for Transportation Studies on this federally funded research program. The studies funded support the overall objective of investigating and proposing policies that will take advantage of the increased presence of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and ITS-related Information and Communication Technologies in planning of transportation and related infrastructure.
The Water Resources Center (WRC), established in 1996 by merging three University water organizations, works to ensure the value and quality of water resources for future generations through research, education, and public outreach. Stressing the importance of collaboration between the University and practitioners and the general public, the Center helps facilitate the sharing of research through the University of Minnesota Extension so that necessary information can more readily be considered by decision-makers and citizens. With many outreach programs in action to help Minnesotans understand issues from the importance of managing stormwater to protecting shorelands, the WRC also works to educate University students by administering the Graduate Program in Water Resources Science and conducts research on topics ranging from the effects of animal waste on water quality to the impacts of climate change on the distribution, quality, and quantity of the state’s water resources.
The College of Design’s Center for Sustainable Building Research (CSBR) has been working to develop tools and information for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Windows and Glazings Research Program. By offering information on efficient windows for all types of buildings, CSBR assists architects, builders, and homeowners in selecting the best options, which contributes to essential aspects of sustainable buildings such as energy efficiency and effective daylighting of a space.