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Sustainability Assessment and Reporting for the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor Campus

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This project assesses the sustainability of the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus (U-M AA).  Objectives are to propose a definition of sustainability and a framework for assessment tailored to the U-M AA, to use the framework to evaluate a set of sustainability indicators, to highlight findings in a Prototype Sustainability Report, and to provide recommendations for an institutionalized reporting process. 

The assessment framework utilizes the "triple bottom line" concept, which recognizes environmental, social and economic spheres of sustainability.  Each sphere is divided into categories and further into indicators.  Environmental categories ranged from water use to greenhouse gas emissions, social categories from wages to community development and financial categories from revenues to investment policies. A total of fifty indicators are presented, including twenty-five environmental, twenty social, and five economic.  Certain indicators are normalized into metrics in order to account for the growth of the campus.  Geographic boundaries delineate activities that occur within the U-M AA system, including education, research, medical care, housing, food service, recreation, arts and community development.  Temporal boundaries define the time period for study as 1990 plus 1995 through 2001.  Life cycle analysis is used for certain indicators to measure upstream and downstream impacts.  Data gathering and analysis were conducted in close collaboration with over thirty U-M AA departments. 

Results show both positive and negative trends and provide a baseline for setting short- and long-term goals.  This study recommends that the U-M AA institutionalize annual sustainability assessment and reporting to enhance its position as a leading educational institution.  Challenges encountered during this study generated other recommendations, including commitment from University leadership to champion the process, wider involvement of internal and external stakeholders in framework and indicator refinement, and the creation of a centralized sustainability assessment entity.

Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment
Publication Type
Master's Thesis
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Rodriquez, S.I., M.S. Roman, S.H. Sturhahn, E.H. Terry. 2002. Sustainability Assessment and Reporting for the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor Campus. University Master's Project. University of Michigan: Ann Arbor: 1-396.