Bellevue University Sustainability Learning Lab
Location: Bellevue, NE, USA
As Bellevue University began to expand its science, technology, engineering and math courses in biology and secondary education, it needed an outdoor lab facility to bring students hands-on experiences in studying sustainable resources. The Sustainability Learning Lab is meant to have a multigenerational appeal with a “show-and-tell” element that invites visitors of all ages to come and learn, while also serving as a research hub and testing site for local solutions to sustainability issues. This augments the university’s commitment to “Science on Display” with open visible areas for collaboration and instruction.
DEFINING FEATURES INCLUDE: adaptable and flexible space for different types of instruction, collaboration and seasons of the year; the ability to record and broadcast experiments in the greenhouse, further exhibiting “Science on Display”; a native plant garden in the greenhouse/headhouse; wind and solar generating stations to study renewable energy; outdoor class space featuring a 1200-square-feet algae pond allowing for the creation of biofuels, as well as a cistern; the project required our team to assist in fitting all of the required elements of the lab and landscape on a relatively small site. To make the process as smooth and productive as possible, our team utilized building information modeling, had user group meetings and followed those up with regular meetings with the client throughout the project, as well as with Rough Brothers, who provided the greenhouse itself.
Sustainable Features and Practices. The new lab highlights include: roof panels that convert sunlight and wind into usable electric power; rainwater harvesting for crop irrigation, controlling run-off and soil erosion; multiple plant varieties that support native ecosystems; outdoor interpretive areas, including a native plant hillside, where students and classes can gather, observe, learn and exchange ideas.
State-of-the-Art Greenhouse. The greenhouse adjoining the sustainability lab features: advanced design for teaching sustainability management and conducting sustainability research projects; temperate and tropical climate zones so students can grow and study a variety of plants; programmable LED lighting, temperature, watering and fertilization; aquaponic/hydroponic tanks that allow plants and fish to grow together. Outside Biofuel Algae Pond. Located next to the greenhouse and lab is a pond reserved for studying algae byproducts. The pond allows faculty and students to: grow algae or microscopic aquatic plant life, to capture sunlight energy; harvest algae and extract energy as usable biofuel; provide a cleaner, renewable alternative to greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels.