Community colleges are a unique focus point for their communities. They offer high school graduates and other students a quality yet reasonably priced education. They provide older adults a way to update their career skills and capabilities. Local businesses and industries rely on them to train their workforce. They are a pathway to providing resources for everyone in their area.
As Illinois community colleges have redesigned and retrofitted their facilities to be more sustainable, they are expanding their reach and turning their campuses into living laboratories. By combining academics and building management, they are introducing, demonstrating and teaching sustainable green technologies to their communities.
Living labs are the future. They combine academic rigor with hands-on learning for everyone across academic and technical programs. Every sector from food services and building maintenance to transportation and grounds keeping are involved.
Schools can address many objectives simultaneously. For example, developing more efficient campus landscaping can reduce water usage and lower utility bills while conserving community resources. Another example can be showing how wind turbines can save energy and provide new career opportunities.
In 2014, IGEN hosted a Campus as a Living Laboratory workshop at the College of Lake County with partners AACC’s Seed Center, Grainger and Siemens. Community stakeholders and college faculty and staff from across Illinois and Wisconsin exchanged ideas, reviewed case studies and participateed in discussions based on the guide. They learned about the eight elements needed to build a living lab.
- Engage the right participants
- Identify key programs
- Build credibility
- Integrate labs into curriculum
- Build industry partnerships
- Engage beyond the campus
- Open labs to community