Sprawleigh: Generating Sustainable Solutions for Urbanization Impacts


This case study focuses on the challenges of a university set in a rapidly increasing urban environment. Urbanization is related to a variety of environmental, societal, and economic impacts including ecosystem fragmentation, development of infrastructure, increased number of vehicles on roadways, increased impervious surface area in watersheds, and greater segregation of residential development according to income. Higher education institutions, especially those located in cities, have been identified as resources that can contribute to reaching sustainability goals (Molnar, et al., 2011). Many universities have created strategic sustainability plans to set goals for attaining sustainable campus solutions (White, 2014). North Carolina State University’s Sustainability Strategic Plan “is a five-year roadmap that builds upon the university’s strengths, momentum, and decades of sustainability progress” (NCSU, 2017). The university also offers a Sustainability Fund, honoring students, staff, and faculty members competitive grants for sustainability-related campus facilities improvements, educational programs, research, and student internships. A student-led board manages the Fund and chooses the award recipients. To encourage early student engagement in sustainable initiatives on campus, the Environmental First Year Program’s final project requires small groups of students to generate feasible proposal ideas, draft a grant for submission, and pitch their ideas to their classmates. Students build upon the knowledge gained throughout the course including the concepts of sustainability, energy, urban watersheds, global environmental change, and environmental justice. Because of this, these topics are recommended being discussed prior to this case study. Each student group will find and analyze quantitative data to determine the metrics for assessment of their proposal, the budget of their plan, and cost savings to the university. Students will also gather qualitative data via interviewing an appropriate campus partner.

Megan Lupek
Meredith Hovis