Developing a Campus Sustainability Living Lab

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Strategies and processes for systematically linking sustainability operations with academics

June 7-9, 2013

Location: Institute for Sustainable Solutions, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon

$450 AASHE Members
$500 Non-members

Fletcher Beaudoin
Assistant Director
Institute for Sustainable Solutions
Portland State University

Katja Brundiers
School of Sustainability Community-University Liaison
Arizona State University

Registration is closed.

For additional information on this workshop, please contact Fletcher Beaudoin (

This workshop will...

introduce systematic efforts to break through the current curricular and operational paradigms and form a new model for both education and sustainability action—the campus living lab. If the linkage between these two parts of the university can be forged effectively, and supported over time, then facilities managers will have access to a new powerful set of resources for data analysis, awareness campaigns and planning, and students will be provided with the hands-on experience, skill development and knowledge necessary to truly face the many vexing sustainability issues of our age.

A living lab is a given place where problem-based teaching, research and applied work combine to develop actionable solutions that make that place more sustainable. These living labs accelerate transitions to a more sustainable place through joint commitments from students, faculty, staff and local residents to design, implement, adapt and teach new approaches that address issues of equity, economy and ecology.

Living lab projects operate with this criteria:

Place: Reflects a commitment to campus and surrounding community
Sustainability: Strives to implement lasting change to make a given place more resource-efficient, equitable and ecologically balanced, acknowledging a resource-finite world.
Real-world learning: Links knowledge to action with problem-based, results-oriented learning opportunities
Fit: Supports the campus’ sustainability vision, advancing campus and neighborhood priorities
Adaptive: Takes an open-ended approach where ongoing assessment, capturing and reporting contributes to the collective knowledge base and improves future projects
Collaborative Action: Fosters deep engagement with community members that leads to on-the-ground project implementation
Evaluation and continuous improvement: Mechanisms are established to monitor progress and evaluate impact overtime

As a workshop participant…

facilitators and resource experts will guide you through a series of examples and exercises for critically reviewing your own campus programs and, in the end, developing a plan and series of actions for building or refining your own campus living lab. Finally, this workshop will be positioned to share lessons learned and strategies, while also engaging in an active dialogue with you and other participants about how you interpret the living lab concept and what elements about it are useful for advancing multiple sustainability goals at your university.

You will leave this workshop with…

  • A plan and a set of actions/strategies for implementing a living lab at your university or college
  • A deep understanding about the underlying theory and value proposition in implementing a sustainability living lab at your campus
  • A network of peers (other participants) and support resources (AASHE and the mentors)
  • Knowledge and identification of who can provide on-going technical guidance as programs are launched
  • Clear typology and definition for a living lab program and courses that increase sustainability education
  • A deeper understanding of how colleges and universities view the opportunities and barriers to living lab work


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Day 1 – Reception
Participants arrive for a reception and context setting

Day 2 – Vision and Theory

Introductions and vision

  • Introductions and framing the workshop outcomes and goals
  • Small group work where people talk about their vision for a living lab

Living lab tour of the PSU Campus

  • Visiting four active living lab projects across the PSU campus, the group will discuss the key elements of success, and identify opportunities and major barriers facing PSU


Theory and strategies

  • Facilitators to present the literature review and background research on Living Lab – providing examples that help support an emerging theory and set of strategies for the living lab development
  • Facilitators will provide some overarching themes and strategies as well as narrative about how different contexts and how they change timelines, barriers and approaches (size of the institution, for example)

Small working groups

  • Individuals to present obstacles and past work at the universities
  • The group will help apply some of the strategies to the different contexts, working towards a set of concrete actions for advancing systematic living lab programs
  • At the end of this process, the individuals should have articulated some of the key assets and barriers for deploying a living lab; and an idea of what success would look like

Report back – key questions and realizations from the day

Day 3 – Developing plans and actions

Recap: Learning from Day One

  • Key take-aways: How do we leverage the assets at the different campuses, and build new ones, for overcoming the barriers and beginning to institute a systematic living lab program

Presentations from different PSU living lab experts:

Thoughts into Action: Build programs/plans for developing a living lab program


Planning and Production of Prototypes

  • Prototype with Sequenced Solutions Plan
  • Have two key questions that you would like help from by the group

Reports and Discussion

Close out

  • Final information is provided about funding opportunities and strategies and also the opportunity to continue to engage with the facilitators when they go back home

About the Workshop Site

Portland State’s 50-acre urban campus provides a powerful opportunity to test and innovate solutions and do real work in service of the community.

Building smart cities
Understanding nature's benefits
Connecting place, wellness, and equity
Other expertise
Studying sustainability
Undergraduate programs
Graduate programs
Graduate certificate in sustainability
Our campus living lab
Climate Action Plan
Solutions Generator

Facilitator Bios

Fletcher Beaudoin works at the at Portland State University’s (PSU) Institute for Sustainable Solutions as the Assistant Director. He focuses on sustainability research, education and outreach, working to build transformative linkages between the PSU community and sustainability practitioners. Some of his key roles include: Facilitating community-based research and education, providing support for interdisciplinary and multi-sector grant proposals, coordinating a regional partnership for advancing ecosystem service approaches, and advising on campus-related sustainability initiatives. He received his BA in English and Spanish from the University of Oregon and his Masters in Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy and Energy Policy from Columbia University.

Katja Brundiers is the Community-University Liaison for the School of Sustainability, where she develops and administers student-centered research on practical sustainability problems. Before joining ASU, Katja headed up a boundary organization at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (Switzerland) that facilitated collaborative research projects between students, faculty, and community partners (business, government, NGOs). Katja brings to the position her experiences as a sustainability consultant to the University of British Columbia (Canada) and as a member of the UNESCO Committee on Education for Sustainable Development. She also worked as a civil servant at the Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development, as a consultant in a private planning agency, and as a researcher in an international development research project for the government of Sri Lanka. She holds a master's degree in geography and anthropology from the University of Zurich.

Research Interests:
Sustainability science; University-community collaborations; Pre-disaster prevention and Post-disaster reconstruction and reconciliation; Vulnerability; Planning and future thinking

Honors and Awards:
President's Award for Sustainability, Arizona State University, 2009
M.S., Geography, Cultural Anthropology, and Agriculture and Econoimcs, University of Zurich, Switzerland, 2003

Journal Articles:
Brundiers, K. and A. Wiek. 2011. Educating students in real-world sustainability research: Vision and implementation. Innovative Higher Education 36:107-124.