Grant boosts sustainability initiatives

Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

A. Sue Weisler

This solution, being held by doctoral student Annick Anctil, is used to test new types of solar cells.

In the early 1990s, Nabil Nasr, then an industrial and systems engineering professor at RIT, began working with companies to help them become greener while reducing costs.

He realized there was a need to improve how companies manage their waste production, so in 1996 he founded the National Center for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery to address the problem. The center, which received support from U.S. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, has worked with a host of businesses, government agencies and the U.S. military.

He would eventually expand his research to focus on sustainable production and design, which ultimately led to the formation of the Golisano Institute for Sustainability in 2007.

Nasr’s work and RIT’s goal to serve as a center for sustainable development for the region, nation and world received a significant boost this fall with a $13.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. This prestigious, competitive grant will assist in construction of a new green facility that will house the Golisano Institute’s research and education programs in sustainable design, product development and green architecture.

Nasr’s efforts have dovetailed with a growing emphasis on sustainability—the development of systems and operations in all facets of society that have as little impact as possible on the world’s resources and environment while promoting better quality of life internationally.

“We focus on broader research and education initiatives in remanufacturing, alternative energy and pollution prevention to expand this work into other areas and to disseminate these processes to the broader community,” Nasr says.

Since 2002, this work has helped to create more than 1,500 jobs, retain more than 1,900 additional positions and led to an increase in sales revenue of an estimated $164 million.

The grant is a component of the NIST Construction Grant Program and RIT was selected after an extensive competitive process. Only five projects were selected out of 124 proposals. The 75,000-square-foot facility has received $10 million in funding from the state of New York. Significant corporate and foundation support for additional institute programs includes $2 million from Xerox Corp. and $1 million from Eastman Kodak Co.

“Strengthening research and development in the United States is critical to our ability to create jobs and remain competitive,” adds U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. “These construction grants will help the U.S. produce world-leading research in science and technology that will advance our economic growth and international competitiveness.”

The Golisano Institute was founded with a $10 million gift from Paychex founder and chairman B. Thomas Golisano, who is also a member of the RIT Board of Trustees.

“It is imperative that we accelerate strategies to promote a sustainable society and ensure future generations the opportunity to address their own needs,” Golisano says.

The Golisano Institute currently houses one of the world’s first Ph.D. programs in sustainable production and is developing master’s degrees in sustainable systems and sustainable architecture.

The new facility will include classrooms, research bays and state-of-the-art laboratories focused on environmentally benign manufacturing, alternative energy testing and validation and remanufacturing and recycling process improvement.

The institute also works with a host of businesses and state and federal agencies including Xerox, Kodak, General Motors, Staples, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

It also has long-standing relationships with many other companies, assisting in promoting the use of environmentally benign manufacturing, which has reduced waste and energy use while also increasing productivity and efficiency.

“This tremendous support from the National Institute of Standards and Technology will assist us in developing new sustainable technologies and processes while also disseminating knowledge, education and training in the field,” says Nasr.

RIT expects to break ground on the new facility this spring with the facility opening in the fall of 2012.

The new building will be designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council, which sets goals for waste and energy minimization and reuse in building construction and operation. The campus already features one LEED Platinum and one LEED Gold facility.

“RIT is committed to enhancing sustainable development through innovative research and education initiatives as well as increased implementation of sustainable processes in our facilities and campus design,” says RIT President Bill Destler. “We are extremely honored to have been chosen for this award from NIST, which will assist us in promoting both of these goals and will serve as a model for other universities across the country.”