Campus as a Living Lab

"On a sustainable campus, the built environment, operational systems, research, scholarship, and education are linked as a “living laboratory” for sustainability. Users (such as students, faculty, and staff) have access to research, teaching, and learning opportunities on connections between environmental, social, and economic issues."

 - ISCN-GULF Sustainable Campus Charter

When President Ruth Simmons signed the ISCN-GULF Sustainable Campus Charter in 2010, she committed the University to “aligning its operations, research, and teaching with the goal of sustainability” through the use of campus as a "living laboratory".  “Campus as a Living Lab” will have different definitions for different campus constituents.  Students may see it as an opportunity to connect their academic learning to their daily lives; researchers may see an opportunity to use campus as test site for new theories and innovations. Facilities is working to connect members of the Brown community to its environmentally conscious campus management methods through behavior-based programs and peer-to-peer outreach.  

 Harnessing Psychology for Green Change” at the 2012 Theories in Action conference.Caitlin Conn '12 presents “Marketing Mindset: Harnessing Psychology for Green Change” at the 2012 Theories in Action conference.

The behavior-based programming that the Energy and Environment (E&E) Office supports through the Dorm Energy Efficiency Program and EcoReps are an excellent example of how Facilities is already using a “living lab” framework to teach students about sustainable behaviors.  These “living lab” interactions not only reduce resource consumption and save money; they also engage Facilities Management with the University’s mission to “prepare students to discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation.” 

In addition to behavior-based occupant education, the E&E Office engages with students, faculty and classes on academic on an ad hoc basis.  We actively support both students and faculty with campus-based project development. A few of the projects that have been developed through these collaborations are highlighted in the table below.

The  E&E Office also funds and supports a student intern who provides critical support to the Brown Climate Action Fund, a student group that connects qualified, student-driven, resource reduction projects with Facilities funding.  

If you are interested in working the Energy and Environment Office on a "Living Lab" class project or course integration, please contact 

Class Projects

What goes where? Using visual examples to increase recyling compliance.

Nicholas Varone ‘12

Energy Usage and the Status Quo Bias

Can Gencler ‘12; Jesse Hartheimer ‘14

Green Events: a Theories in Action Pilot

Abeba Cherinet, Charlotte Delpit ’15; Arisa Lohmeier, Juliana Rodriguez ’14; Julia Duch ’12

Student Initiatives

EcoReps - The Brown EcoReps program is a campus-based, volunteer, environmental outreach organization sponsored and supported by Facilities Management.  EcoReps serve as informed ambassadors, who work with their peers to create a culture of environmentally responsible behavior.  EcoReps can answer student questions about recycling, heating, and energy conservation and encourage their friends and classmates to adopt healthy green living habits.

BCAF - The Brown Climate Action Fund is a student group that works with campus community members to identify, evaluate, and implement resource saving campus improvements.  Students involved with BCAF get real word experience with cost benefit analysis, payback period calculations and project management.  

Awards and Presentations

Caitlin Conn presented “Marketing Mindset: Harnessing Psychology for Green Change”  at Theories in Action 2012.  Her poster showcased how she used her academic background in COE and Psychology in her yearlong Publicity Specialist internship with the E&E Office.