Loyola University Chicago

Institute of Environmental Sustainability

Our Facilities

The Institute of Environmental Sustainability facility, opened in 2013, includes classrooms, faculty offices, research and teaching labs, a biodiesel lab, an urban agricultural greenhouse, a green café, and a LEED Certified residence hall. 

Ecodome Greenhouse

Ecodome, a 3,100 square foot greenhouse, is used in sustainable food systems research projects as well as urban agriculture production.  Vertical farming elements are demonstrated in the Ecodome greenhouse space.

Ecodome houses aquaponics systems that demonstrate sustainable food production in a controlled setting.  Tilapia are grown in a symbiotic relationship with vegetable crops, where the fish waste is digested by worms and then fed to plants, which clean the water.‌

Aquaponics Facility

Aquaponics offers solutions to fish farmers who dispose of nutrient-rich fish waste and to hydroponic growers who require constant inputs of nutrient additives. The systems are located indoors and operate in all seasons, allowing a continual harvest of sustainably grown produce.

This aquaponic system is ornamental in design but still grows fish and produce for food.  Students in the Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP) Food course have worked to identify what to grow in these systems and how to process them for market.  

Searle Biodiesel Lab

The Searle Biodiesel Lab houses Loyola’s award winning Biodiesel program. Students have built a self-sustaining business by converting portions of our campus waste stream into marketable products like biodiesel for our shuttle bus systems and hand soap for our campus restrooms. Recognized many times by grants and other awards, the biodiesel lab has increased capacity and can process 100,000 gallons of waste oil into vehicle fuel although it will most likely be processing 20-30,000 gallons per year to start.  

Ecology Research Laboratory

Located on the east side of the 2nd floor, this space houses research related to nutrient cycling in wetlands, aquatic ecology of microalgaes and risk assessment related to invasive species.  This lab is a shared space where faculty and students collaborate on interdisciplinary research.

Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP) Teaching Laboratory

The STEP lab hosts entrepreneurial courses exploring and creating solutions to some of today’s most pressing environmental issues.  STEP Water has looked at water contamination and the issues related to water privatization in developing economies.  STEP Food has explored the food procurement policies of Loyola Dining, created the Loyola Farmers Market and multiple edible garden projects across campus and at the Retreat and Ecology Campus.‌

Ecotoxicology Research Laboratory

The Ecotoxicology and Risk Assessment labs are research spaces exploring the role contaminants play in ecosystems and identifying thresholds for pollution levels in soils, water and organisms.  

Stormwater Management

Large underground concrete cisterns capture rainwater and slowly release it into the ground or the city’s sewer system.   This is part of Loyola’s larger stormwater strategy to reduce the amount of rain water being directed to the city’s combined sewer system.  This in return reduces water contamination in local water ways and prevents basement flooding for Loyola and our neighbors.

Rain Capture

Water falling on the roof of San Francisco Hall is collected in a 3,000 gallon cistern located on the first floor of San Francisco Hall.  The water is then reused in the greenhouse operations for irrigation and landscape and for flushing the toilets located directly off the Lounge.  There is also a connection to city water during times of drought.

Geothermal System

91 wells reaching 500 feet into the ground provide heating/cooling energy for the facility.  This is the largest system within the City of Chicago and the first in the State to be installed underneath the facility’s footprint. This system will save about 30% off our heating and cooling costs functioning like a large radiator into the ground, sending energy, in the form of heat, into the earth in the summer and drawing in heat during the winter.

Green Roofing

Another part of the facility’s stormwater management is our green roofs.  Loyola is a leader in green roofs, having more than any other University in the Midwest.  The IES will have 3 green roofs providing stormwater capture, improving air quality, providing habitat and reducing the urban heat island.

San Francisco Residence Hall

‌We share common spaces with San Francisco Hall, a 130,000 sq. ft.  new residence hall for freshman and sophomores that houses the Green House Learning Community – students who share common classes and co-curricular activities and engage in Loyola’s initiatives to develop a more sustainable campus.

Engrained Café

Most everything at Engrained Café was either made in-house or brought in from a few miles away. The menu that also focuses on sourcing seasonal, organic, locally grown and produced ingredients within a 150 mile radius.

Urban Agriculture at Lake Shore Campus

Two gardens that demonstrate some of the best small-scale urban agriculture techniques from Chicago and the world. This demonstration is intended to educate students, faculty, and staff of the University as well as the greater community. Currently, 20% of food produced in the gardens are donated to a charity, A Just Harvest.

Our rooftop gardens are a demonstration and exploration of the three-season (spring, summer, fall) growing seasons. We grow a variety of seasonal herbs, produce and flowers. This site allows students to learn about rooftop food production in conditions that differ from on-the-ground growing conditions and, of particular importance, the ability to grow food in urban conditions when ground-level space is not possible.

Winthrop Garden is a small orchard planted by the student group Growers Guild with twenty raised beds and an array of vegetables and herbs. This garden utilizes low tunnel season extension strategies that allow the cultivation of crops beyond their traditional growing season. Three-bin and single-bin compost systems to provide necessary nutrients for both gardens.

Retreat and Ecology Campus

The Institute also provides unique field education opportunities for students studying the environment at the Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Campus. With 98 acres of prairies, savannas, woodlands, wetlands, pond and an organic farm, LUREC provides a unique field education opportunity for studying agriculture, restoration, biodiversity, conservation and ecology. 

There are two ecology labs on the lower level at LUREC which are equipped with microscopes, dissecting equipment, a freezer and glassware along with AV equipment and a chemical hood.

The Loyola Farm has been operating since 2010 and is in full throttle toward becoming a sustainable food operation. The farm includes a hoop house, heated greenhouse and two acres of organic row crops.