Cornell's sustainability efforts have received multiple awards since the university's Climate Action Plan (CAP) launched in 2009. Those endeavors have drawn the attention of officials and universities in China, who have invited several Cornell experts to share their expertise about developing sustainable campuses on the mainland, including at an April 21 symposium in Shenzhen.
At the heart of this China-Cornell connection is Ying Hua, assistant professor of design and environmental analysis, who is co-organizing the symposium. After participating in developing campus emissions reduction initiatives and conducting a post-occupancy study of Weill Hall, she is convinced that universities can serve as "an incubator and test-bed for sustainability-related education, research and practice."
China's interest in Cornell was prompted when Hua explained CAP's comprehensive, cost-savings, metrics-based approach at a conference in Shanghai in June 2010. That led to an invitation to Bert Bland, senior director of Cornell's energy and sustainability department, to speak at the International Symposium of Green Universities at Tsinghua University last October. Bland reviewed CAP's five areas -- green development, energy conservation, transportation, fuel mix and renewable energy, and carbon offsetting actions -- and, because Tsinghua University is a century old, he reviewed how Cornell is retrofitting its older buildings with energy-efficient lighting and updated heating and ventilation systems and making better use of spaces.
The April 21 "China-U.S. Sustainable Campus Symposium" will be held at Peking University in Shenzhen. Kyu-Jung Whang, Cornell's vice president for facilities, will present the keynote address, and Jeffrey S. Lehman, former Cornell president and now dean of the School of Transnational Law on the Shenzhen campus, will deliver the welcoming remarks.
"Cornell is a living laboratory for collaborations between academic units and campus operations," said Whang. "I plan on talking about the role of leadership in committing to a sustainable campus, the planning, engagement and implementation stages, and ways to measure success." He added that he was not only eager to share what Cornell has learned so far in its sustainability initiatives, but also to see how other universities are implementing sustainable solutions that make sense for their environments.
At Tsinghua University, for instance, the electricity in undergraduate dormitories is shut off from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., Bland said.
Researchers, educators and students from across China, as well as 10 Chinese university presidents or vice presidents, are expected to attend. The symposium will focus on such tools as carbon quantification that measure sustainable efforts; appropriate, economical technology solutions; and the promotion of sustainability education and low-carbon lifestyles.
"The large number of higher education campuses in China, as condensed built environment settings, present great potential for demonstrating planning, design and management solutions for climate change mitigation," Hua said. Universities have an important role to play for the transformation of both the built environment and our society towards being more sustainable, she said.