UAB Campus Becoming More Sustainable in 2014

By on January 29, 2014
UAB Proposed Master Plan

Sustainability 3 Sustainability 2 Sustainability 1The UAB community can look forward to another year of ongoing green efforts and sustainability projects around campus, including improvements to green buildings, energy and water conservation, recycling efforts and green transportation.

The UAB Sustainability Committee is a voluntary group of members dedicated to making the campus more sustainable. One of the ways that the committee has made strides to a greener campus is the creation of green roof designs.

UAB Facilities and the School of Engineering came up with a novel idea for UAB in 2008: to plant gardens on rooftops. Green roofs benefit UAB buildings by extending the roof life, providing habitat for birds and insects, insulating and cooling buildings, allowing cleaner storm water and, not to mention, garnishing the roofs.

“If you’re working on a building nearby, would you rather look at asphalt and tar or a beautiful garden?” said Julie Price, UAB Sustainability Coordinator.

Price is also the mastermind behind the wildly popular UAB Gardens, an on-campus garden divided up into 65 plots. UAB students, faculty and staff can rent a plot and grow their own produce. The group shares growing tips, harvest success and pictures of their garden on a private Facebook group.

“A lot of UAB students and faculty live downtown where they don’t have a backyard. UAB Gardens gives them an opportunity to grow their own produce and just relax,” said Price.

UAB Gardens has a waiting list of about 75 people, but Price suspects that a lot of plot leasers will continue to renew their lease. The Sustainability Committee plans to create more green roofs on new buildings on campus.

Director of Environmental Management David Hagan is also a member of the Sustainability Committee and is in the forefront of ensuring sustainability of UAB-acquired land and buildings.

“When UAB buys properties, we have to evaluate property for environmental pollution. If any is found, we either ask the current owner to clean it up or renegotiate the price so that we can clean it up ourselves to meet regulatory standards,” said Hagan.

Some buildings will have heat recovery systems and energy-efficient light bulbs to maximize energy savings. More buildings will soon see the addition of water filtration stations, such as the one found at the UAB Campus Recreation Center (CRCT). So far the CRCT’s water filtration system has saved over 42,000 plastic bottles of water.

“We’d like to foster the use of reusable water bottles. The water filtration stations encourage this behavior from students,” said Price.

UAB has made tremendous effort in reducing water usage when the Facilities Division created a network of pipes and tanks that collects ground water and condensate. The innovation has saved the university tens of thousands of dollars and millions of gallons of water since 2012.

If there’s a central landmark for students on campus, it’s the Campus Green. The UAB Master Plan includes plans to expand green space from the Campus Green to Railroad Park, an on-campus stadium, new residence halls and more. The New Student Center will feature a garden and greenway extending past the building.

“When the new student center construction center is complete around 15 months from now, there will be a water feature that has something like a swinging serpentine effect. It’s nice for people in cities to have some greenery and accents to admire,” said Sheila Chaffin, Executive Director of Campus Planning.

Chaffin discussed the planning stages of a project that resembles Chicago’s Millennium Park that “goes on and on and on” and covers nearly 25 acres of Grant Park. “UAB’s version of Millennium Park will come down 15th Street, down the campus green and northwards. It will have buildings left and right, oriented so that they’re arranged like a linear park, similar to Millennium Park,” said Chaffin.

UAB strives to make landscaping green spaces as sustainable as possible by setting up a drain net with permeable earth so that water will absorb into natural terrain, just as it does on a natural landscape. Price adds that the Sustainability Committee makes it a goal to “plant more trees than the number of trees that were torn down in the process.”

Other greenway plans include the addition of bicycle share-all lanes–a shared lane between bikers and drivers–and pedestrian greenways. “17th Street will be a very discreet bicycle street,” said Chaffin.

Sustainability efforts have also been made with transportation revisions from the UAB Department of Parking and Transportation Services. The Department is asking for students, faculty, staff, and authorized visitors to leave the car keys at home and ride the Blazer Express instead.

Blazer Express is a free 24-hour bus service that launched campuswide on Jan. 6, 2014. The shuttle system was initiated as a way to provide safe, economical, and reliable transportation to and from campus as an alternative to driving or using Campus Ride and Escort, a program that became discontinued after Blazer Express started up. The buses use diesel fuel instead of gasoline to provide more fuel economy. Diesel is 33% more efficient in gas mileage than gasoline.

“With the transit system, we hope that students and employees will use the buses to navigate around campus as opposed to driving their personal vehicles from place to place which cuts down emissions from all those vehicles,” said André R. Davis, Director of UAB Parking and Transportation Services.

Students interested in becoming involved with sustainability efforts may become involved with the Green Initiative, a student organization devoted to increasing campus awareness about recycling and sustainability. UAB is also looking to offer a minor in sustainability in the near future.

The UAB American Marketing Association (AMA), Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and Green Initiative are assisting UAB Sustainability Committee with a resounding tagline: “Sustainability. It’s not just for tree huggers.” The student groups are coordinating a week of sustainability-related events the second week of April, which will include forums, panel discussions, a Green Jobs fair, Arbor Day Observance, a festival on the green, and more.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to bring awareness to UAB’s campus as well as the Birmingham community of the importance of sustainability. Sustainability is not just about the environment, it’s about having sustainable business practices as well as sustainable economic policies,” said Laura Pate, AMA President.

For more information on sustainability efforts or to become involved, contact UAB Sustainability Coordinator Julie Price at

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About Kaylyn Alexander

  • gnosticmike

    Until ALL of the UAB Campus (this includes, but is not limited to: UAB Hospital [Span-Wallace, North Pavilion, Kirkland Clinic, Psych center, Jefferson Towers], the clinics on 19th and 20th streets, and any UAB affiliates on UAB property, then I give UAB Sustainability a C+ at best. Mr Ray Watts, the doctors, physicians, and staff at the other side of “campus” are disconnected, and, therefore not aware or care about the sustainability projects that only affect half the campus. Remember, UAB has about 80-85 city blocks and every decision has be to be economically effective. Otherwise, it’s the same ole’, same ole’ story with hospital-based campuses. More money for the doctors and less money for everything else.

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