Texas CityLab is an interdisciplinary applied learning strategy for university faculty and students to engage with social equity, environmental, and economic challenges facing Central Texas. Sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Development, Texas CityLab brings diverse students and faculty together to strengthen shared campus culture, applied research and sustainability work. Through this service-learning program, students will have unique access to experiential learning opportunities across several disciplines. In tandem, the program will also help cities address their critical sustainability issues by bringing together the unique resources available at the University of Texas.
Each academic year, Texas CityLab will select one Texas city with which UT faculty and students will engage. Then, over the course of two semesters, classes in multiple disciplines will undertake sustainability projects in the chosen city, addressing issues jointly identified by city officials and Texas CityLab.

2014- 2015 Academic Year

In its inaugural year, the Texas CityLab is partnering with University of Texas Campus Planning & Facilities Management. As the “city” in our backyard, the 80,000-person University of Texas campus offers an ideal platform for Texas CityLab. During the academic year 2014-2015, fifteen classes will engage in finding solutions to a range of sustainability challenges on campus. Working with the Facilities and Operations team at the University of Texas and in alignment with the UT Campus Master Plan goals, the year’s courses are structured into the following five project areas:

1. Living Laboratory: Bridging the Energy and Water Conservation Program with Academics

The newly formed Energy and Water Conservation Program (EWC) at UT Austin has been charged to conserve 20% demand side energy and water consumption in the E&G space throughout campus by the year 2020 (baseline year is 2009). In the fall semester of 2014, the EWC Program, Building Optimization Team, and Zonal Maintenance will be collaborating to implement a comprehensive energy audit at BMC building, presenting an opportunity for students to support this campus initiative. Classes in this project area will help contribute directly to the energy audits across campus.

2. Value Proposition of Sustainability Initiatives

The costs of sustainability initiatives and programs are often immediate, while the benefits of the same programs may not be seen in the near-term. Sustainability initiatives and programs are often intended to produce longer-term benefits to the economy, environment and all people, making such benefits difficult to quantify through more traditional cost-benefit analyses. These classes will examine the return-on-investment from sustainability initiatives taking place in campus as an avenue to develop a methodology for how to perform such analyses in the longer term.

3. Zero Waste

UT’s Campus Master Plan calls for the campus to move towards zero waste across campus by 2020, providing an opportunity for classes to examine how best to catalyze positive action from staff, students and faculty on campus. Classes in this project area will use the University’s Campus Master Plan as a starting point and serve as a test bed for communication and design strategies to encourage behavior change across campus.

4. Wildlife & Biodiversity

The abundance of humans, wildlife, and plant species on campus presents an opportunity to identify how to more effectively integrate human and natural systems on the UT campus. These classes will provide greater analysis (problem identification and potential implementation measures) of particular species on campus and students’ relationships to these plants and animals, directly informing how to enhance the already abundant natural environment on campus while maintaining the campus as an effective space for learning.

5. Waller Creek

UT’s Campus Master Plan calls for the transformation and restoration of Waller Creek in order to enhance the campus environment; however, limited staff resources for consistent evaluation and maintenance presents an opportunity for students to creatively think about how to move a plan from vision to implementation. Classes in this section will study the urban watershed and develop particular program and policy strategies for how to manage the creek over time, specifically within the larger context of the roles of an anchor institution in a city.

Project Contacts

PI: Katherine Lieberknecht (klieberknecht@utexas.edu
Manager: Sarah Wu (sarahwu@austin.utexas.edu)
Coordinator: Kaethe Selkirk (kaethe.selkirk@gmail.com
To stay informed of Texas CityLab, be sure to follow the Center for Sustainable Development on Facebook and on Twitter (@UTSoA_CSD, #TXCityLab ).


Texas CityLab Waterlillies
Texas CityLab Waterlillies


Texas CityLab Austin VIew
Texas CityLab Austin VIew


Texas CityLab ft. Squirrel
Texas CityLab ft. Squirrel