Student-Led Campus Sustainability Projects


The University of Michigan experience is more than lectures and classrooms. U-M recognizes the importance of fostering living-learning lab opportunities on campus. These opportunities provide students the chance to expand their learning through “real world” lessons associated with managing sustainability projects.

What is a Sustainability Project?
It is an infrastructure installation designed to support the university’s sustainability goals by providing opportunities for the campus community to experience sustainable options.

OCS is responsible for assisting students and student groups through the process. We developed this guide to help you plan and implement a sustainability project on the Ann Arbor campus.

Working with OCS
Faculty/Staff Mentorship
Please treat OCS as your point of contact when beginning a sustainability project on campus (in a U-M-owned building or grounds). As a public institution, U-M is responsible for insuring that our campus meets or exceeds all relevant construction, environmental, and safety regulations. Often, this means requirements and steps you may not anticipate. We recommend contacting Ken Keeler ( early in the development phase. We can improve your success and minimize delays by advising you and connecting you with the proper Facilities and Operations staff to approve and install infrastructure on campus.

Many student groups find it beneficial to work with faculty or staff, especially at the beginning of the project. These mentors may be able to communicate with building facility managers and school deans, whose support is often necessary to gain approval for installation of projects in, on, or around an existing facility.

Key Requirements
Institutional Support

Student projects require support or sponsorship from a university department. The sponsor will be responsible for maintenance and for disposal of the materials at end of life, if applicable. We may be able to assist with introducing you to potential sponsors, or may be able to take on this role.

Location Approval

The Campus Planning Office is responsible for managing use of university facilities and grounds. As your liaison to Campus Planning, we’ll work together to help you find a suitable location. If you have a preferred location in mind, Campus Planning can determine whether or not that space is available and what future plans may exist for the location. Campus Planning has final approval over space use.

Exterior Elements Review Committee (EERC) Approval

If your project will affect the exterior of buildings, any aspect of the university grounds, or an interior public lobby of a building, it must be approved. Campus Planning will provide guidance with input from EERC.

If the potential exists for the project to require EERC review, you must submit a project proposal for initial review. We can help you make this determination and prepare your proposal.

If the committee determines that the project does indeed require approval, they will ask you to present the project during an EERC meeting. Here’s more info on EERC guidelines and procedures.

For more information, please contact Ken Keeler at or (734) 936-6663.

Project Proposal for EERC

Please include:

Short description of the proposed structure(s)/equipment, with intended use and desired message

List requirements for an installation site in order of importance, including criteria such as:

  • access to utilities
  • proximity to a specific program or building
  • solar exposure
  • intended audience (staff, student, public, public access/viewing vs private/remote)
  • security of installation
  • vehicular access to installation
  • ADA accessibility
  • type of ground surface
  • time of day usage (site lighting needs)
  • other technical requirements 

Given the site requirements, are there specific sites already in mind?

How long will it take to reach the point of installation, what is the expected installation duration, and is the project a demonstration project or pilot program?

Who will deliver/install/remove and will additional technical assistance be required?

A department or unit willing to claim responsibility for upkeep and eventual disposal of the unit

Describe any special disposal needs, such as recyclability or regulated disposal issues, and anticipated site restoration needs.

Vendor specs, energy requirements, size, emissions, safety considerations, pictures, etc.

Community Engagement
Student sustainability projects support U-M’s community engagement goal by providing people an opportunity to experience and learn about sustainability issues such as energy conservation, greenhouse gas reduction, and waste reduction. To leverage the project for community engagement, the installation process should include an educational component that informs the campus community what it is, how it works, and how they can interact with it. We can assist by promoting the project through university news, OCS’ website, the Planet Blue website and social media.
Funding Opportunities
Planet Blue Student Innovation Fund
Social and Environmental Sustainability Grant Award
Solar charging pole
  Solar charging pole, a Net Impact club project.