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University of Wisconsin's Rapid Plan for a Sustainable F...

University of Wisconsin's Rapid Plan for a Sustainable Future

Madison, Wisconsin is a city where politics meet academics. The mid-sized city is both the state capital and home to the state’s largest public university – the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a student at UW-Madison, it is easy to become frustrated with all the construction constantly occurring on campus. Detours and caution signs have become

Madison, Wisconsin is a city where politics meet academics. The mid-sized city is both the state capital and home to the state’s largest public university - the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a student at UW-Madison, it is easy to become frustrated with all the construction constantly occurring on campus. Detours and caution signs have become the norm, and it often seems like there will never be relief from the incessant sound of jackhammers. However, all these successive transformations were strategically planned in 2005 - the year the university created its most recent Master Plan. University officials created this plan with a few guiding principles.

First, they hoped to capitalize on the campus’s beautiful lakefront setting, while abiding by sustainable design guidelines to reduce impact on the land. In addition, they desired to create a sense of place that is welcoming to both students and visitors. The plan targets twenty years of growth and aims to replace obsolete and costly-to-maintain facilities and relieve overcrowded spaces while restoring many of the historic buildings.

Many of the projects that were proposed in 2005 have already been completed. In August 2012 the university finished construction of a 318,000 square foot, $47.6 million lakeshore residence hall. This project alleviated many of the housing shortages for first year students on campus. The university also opened the doors to a new Union South in 2011. The buildings both received LEED Gold designations. In fact, 90% of the materials from demolishing the old Union South were recycled.

The new Union South, University of Wisconsin

The opening of the $210 million Wisconsin Institute for Discovery in 2010 was another huge milestone for UW-Madison. This research facility is the first laboratory building in Wisconsin to receive LEED gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The building makes fantastic use of space and light, and it engages visitors to interact with its surroundings. And this building is not only a place of research. Students are often seen lounging on the Aldo’s Café patio - named after the great environmentalist and UW-Madison professor, Aldo Leopold. It’s a great hang out and study place for students and researchers alike.

The Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery, University of Wisconsin

The humanities and arts side of campus is also in the process of a total makeover. The Chazen Museum of Art received an impressive $43 million addition in 2011. The university is also halfway to raising the funds for a new $38 million School of Music Performance, right in the heart of campus.

UW School of Music Performance Centre sign, University of Wisconsin

The university held over 200 meetings with hundreds of citizens and interested groups before the final draft of the plan was completed. Now almost halfway through the twenty year time frame, the university has done a great job of improving its campus, while protecting the environment. The plan opened up selected lakeshore views, protected natural areas from development, decreased stormwater erosion, and required the use of many “green” building materials. While the constant sound of jackhammers may be a nuisance, students can rest assured that it is all in the name of sustainability and reinvestment in the future of the university.

Is your university or city redeveloping with sustainability in mind?

Credits: Images by Kaylie Duffy. Data linked to sources.

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Kaylie Duffy is currently pursuing a B.A. in Environmental Studies, Geography, and Russian Language and Literature from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. While writing and photographing for the university’s student newspaper, The Badger Herald,...

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