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Our Facilities

Students at the School for Environmental Sustainability study, research, work, and even eat in a unique, immersive learning environment. School facilities include a working biodiesel lab, a greenhouse, vegetable gardens, and labs equipped to study ecotoxicology, aquatic ecology, analytical chemistry, and more. 

Our building on the Lake Shore Campus has state-of-the-art features that minimize energy use, reduce waste, and conserve water. The cafe at SES offers sustainably grown, fair-trade coffee and seasonal, organic, and locally grown food.  

Students can also get hands-on experience with field research, habitat restoration, and sustainable agriculture at the Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Campus, located on 98-acres of green space in Woodstock, Illinois.  

Learn more about the school's facilities below, or explore Loyola's campus-wide sustainability efforts through the Office of Sustainability.

In-person, group tours are available to internal (Loyola-affiliated) and external groups, and requests are welcome from high schools, colleges, and community organizations. Visit the Facilities Tours page to learn more and request a tour.

Geothermal System Tour

Ecodome Greenhouse

The Ecodome is a 3,100 square foot greenhouse used in sustainable food systems research projects as well as urban agriculture production. Vertical farming elements are demonstrated in the Ecodome greenhouse space. Our greenhouse is home to the aquaponics systems, demonstrating sustainable food production in a controlled setting. Learn more about our urban agriculture initiative and sustainable food systems research.

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. Learn more about our aquaponics initiative.

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

Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP) Teaching Laboratory

The STEP lab hosts entrepreneurial courses exploring and creating solutions to today’s most pressing environmental issues. STEP Water investigated water contamination and issues related to water privatization in developing economies. STEP Food explored Loyola Dining's food procurement policies, created the Loyola Farmers Market, and initiated multiple edible garden projects across campus and the Retreat and Ecology Campus.‌ Learn more about our STEP initiative.

San Francisco Residence Hall

‌We share common spaces with San Francisco Hall, a 130,000 sq. ft. residence hall for freshman and sophomores housing our Green House Learning Community. This community of students share common classes and co-curricular activities and engage in Loyola’s initiatives to maintain a more sustainable campus.

Engrained Café

Engrained Cafe's menu focuses on sourcing seasonal, organic, locally grown food produced within a 150-mile radius. To learn more about Engrained Cafe's sustainability initatives, visit its webpage. 

Retreat and Ecology Campus

We encourage all SES students to take a class at LUREC during the summer session, where you can study nature in nature.

There are two ecology labs on the lower level at LUREC, 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 towards becoming a sustainable food operation. The farm includes a hoop house, a heated greenhouse, and two acres of organic row crops. Learn more about our urban agriculture initiative.

Urban Agriculture Gardens

Gardens on Loyola's Lake Shore campus demonstrate some of the best small-scale urban agriculture techniques. These gardens educate students, faculty, and staff, as well as the greater community. Currently, 20% of food produced in the gardens is donated to A Just Harvest.

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

Analytical Facilities / Research Equipment

NexION 350X ICP-MS

The NexION 350X ICP-MS can use a simple non-reactive gas in collision mode or a reactive gas in reaction mode to perform semi-quantitative analysis, environmental testing, as well as test unknown samples on elemental analysis.

Metrohm 881 Compact Ion Chromatography Pro

The Metrohm 881 Compact Ion Chromatography Pro is used to determine anions, cations, or organic acids in a variety of sample matrices, from percent levels down to the ppb range. With sequential suppression by the Metrohm Suppressor Module (MSM) for anions, detection limits of 1ppb can be realized.

Shimadzu GC-2014 Gas chromatograph

The Shimadzu GC-2014 Gas Chromatograph helps analyze greenhouse gases in air and soil. In addition to nitrous oxide, which is known for its high global warming potential, CO and CH4 are measured by a single analysis.

Shimadzu TOC-L

The Shimadzu TOC-L adopts the 680°C combustion catalytic oxidation method to automatically analyze liquid samples for total carbon (TC), inorganic carbon (IC), total organic carbon (TOC), and non-purgeable organic carbon (NPOC).

Thermo Scientific Flash 2000 C/N Analyzer

Thermo Scientific Flash 2000 C/N Analyzer delivers the ultimate in simplicity, precision, and cost-effectiveness for the quantification of carbon and nitrogen in liquid and solid samples, like soil, fresh produce, etc.

Alpkem Flow Injection Analyzer with Autosampler

The Alpkem Flow Injection Analyzer with Autosampler is capable of measuring nitrate/nitrite, ammonium, and orthophosphate in solution, such as water and soil extractant.

Ecotoxicology Research Laboratory

The Ecotoxicology and Risk Assessment Laboratory is a state-of-the-art science facility for conducting ecotoxicology research to determine the fate and effects of inorganic and organic contaminants in the ecosystem. The laboratory has water flow-through and a water recycle culture system with light cycle and temperature control to raise different aquatic organisms for research. Organisms include standard and nonstandard species.

Lab testing facilities are equipped with an automatic water exchange system for conducting water and sediment toxicology research. Testing facilities are designed to control the temperature and light cycle according to guidelines of standard test methods. The lab is also equipped with an in-house analytical facility to support ecotoxicology research. The analytical facilities include an ICP-MS for metal analysis, an IC for ion analysis, an LC-MS and GC-MS for analysis of organic contaminants, a TOC analyzer for analysis of total and dissolved organic carbons in water, a Hot Block for tissue digestion, Fluorescence/UV-VIS Spectrophotometers to measures the absorbance and fluorescence spectra of various organic contaminants, and other instruments for measuring water quality characteristics (e.g., pH, DO, conductivity, turbidity, hardness, alkalinity, etc.).

The primary research interest in this laboratory investigates the influence of chemical and physical characteristics of water, sediment, and soil on the bioavailability and toxicity of contaminants to aquatic and terrestrial organisms. We are looking to achieve the following objectives:

  • Determination of the bioavailability, bioconcentration, and bioaccumulation of contaminants, including microplastics
  • Evaluation of potential toxicity of individual and mixture chemicals in water, sediment, soil, and diets
  • Understanding the mechanisms of toxicity
  • Evaluation of the toxicity of effluent wastewaters and determine causative agent(s) through toxicity identification evaluations
  • Preparation for ecological hazard and risk assessments for aquatic and terrestrial environments
  • Providing guidance to optimize the efficiency of site cleanups and assist in the development of environmental quality guidelines

Dr. Ray Dybzinski's Lab

The Dybzinski Lab (aka “Labzinski”) focuses on two core areas of research - sustainable agriculture and the reciprocal effects of plant traits and global climate change factors. With expertise in mathematical modeling, ecosystem ecology, community ecology, game theory, field experiments, greenhouse experiments, plant physiology, and statistics, Dr. Dybzinski is prepared to advise a variety of projects involving plants.

Examples of ongoing and completed projects include:

  • A field experiment to determine the ecosystem services of the more sustainable perennial wheat cultivar Kernza®
  • A game-theoretic mathematical model of perennial versus annual crop types to help focus breeding efforts
  • Empirical links between the carbon and nitrogen cycles via root traits
  • Theoretical links between the carbon and nitrogen cycles and their effects on carbon storage under global change factors
  • Building ecological realism into large-scale Earth Systems Models
  • Sustainable business management: lessons from resilient ecological systems

Inside the Building

The SES building is loaded with state-of-the-art technology to make it as energy-efficient and forward-thinking as possible. Click the arrows to open each panel and learn more about the building’s features; click again to close.

THE ECODOME - More than a pretty facade

The soaring glass ceiling that wraps around the institute serves multiple purposes: It ventilates the building, collects rainwater, and provides plenty of natural light for the plants growing inside the Ecodome.

Natural ventilation
Rising hot air is drawn out of the top of the Ecodome while computer-controlled vents allow cooler air to enter the space from below. This helps air flow through the greenhouse without mechanical assistance.

Water harvesting
The roof is designed to capture as much rainwater as possible and divert it into a 3,000-gallon cistern within the facility. This water is then reused for irrigation—and even to flush some of the toilets in the building.

Plant production
The Ecodome is a functioning greenhouse and urban farm that also serves as a living, breathing laboratory for students and faculty. The glass roof helps everything grow by filling the space with natural light.

SEARLE BIODIESEL LAB - The future of fuel

Loyola’s Biodiesel Program is the only school-based operation licensed to produce and sell biodiesel in the United States. It is run entirely by students (with the help of one staff member) and is financially self-sufficient.

How it works

1: Collect the oil
Used vegetable oil is collected from cafeterias and filtered to remove any food debris

2: Make and heat the mixture
The filtered oil is poured into a 400-gallon tank. Potassium hydroxide and methanol are added. The oil is heated and eventually separates into two parts: biodiesel and glycerin.

3: Treat the glycerin
The glycerin is treated and turned into soap. (It can also be poured onto a compost heap to help speed decomposition.)

4: Wash the biodiesel
The biodiesel is washed with water to remove any impurities. The fuel is now ready to use.

5: Reuse the leftover water
The leftover “wash water” is treated and used to clean the next batch of biodiesel.

GEOTHERMAL SYSTEM - Using the Earth’s energy

At 500 feet below ground, the earth’s temperature remains about 58° year-round in Chicago. This constant temperature is at the core of the geothermal system that heats and cools the institute. The 91-well system—the largest of its kind in Chicago—is extremely efficient, cutting the building’s heating and cooling costs by 30 percent.

How it works

In the winter
The wells carry coolant deep underground, where the fluid is warmed before returning. Once inside the institute, a biodiesel-fueled boiler raises the coolant’s temperature some more, and a heat exchanger draws heat from the fluid to warm the building. The liquid in the wells, now cooled, is recirculated underground and the process repeats.

In the summer
The process is reversed, with warm fluid being pumped underground to get cooled.

AQUAPONICS - A symbiotic system

Aquaponics blends fish farming with soil-free agriculture to create a sustainable food production system. In the set-up at the institute, fish live in water tanks on the bottom level, while plants grow in trays on top.

How it works

The waste water from the fish tanks is pumped up to the growing beds (1), where the plants extract the nutrients they need (2). The water, now cleansed of toxins, is returned to the fish tanks (3)—and the entire process starts over (4). This “closed-loop system” requires only a small amount of electricity for the pump, a little food for the fish, and sunlight for the plants. Yet it can grow plenty of food—in the form of fresh produce and fish—to eat.

Students at the School for Environmental Sustainability study, research, work, and even eat in a unique, immersive learning environment. School facilities include a working biodiesel lab, a greenhouse, vegetable gardens, and labs equipped to study ecotoxicology, aquatic ecology, analytical chemistry, and more. 

Our building on the Lake Shore Campus has state-of-the-art features that minimize energy use, reduce waste, and conserve water. The cafe at SES offers sustainably grown, fair-trade coffee and seasonal, organic, and locally grown food.  

Students can also get hands-on experience with field research, habitat restoration, and sustainable agriculture at the Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Campus, located on 98-acres of green space in Woodstock, Illinois.  

Learn more about the school's facilities below, or explore Loyola's campus-wide sustainability efforts through the Office of Sustainability.

In-person, group tours are available to internal (Loyola-affiliated) and external groups, and requests are welcome from high schools, colleges, and community organizations. Visit the Facilities Tours page to learn more and request a tour.

Inside the Building

The SES building is loaded with state-of-the-art technology to make it as energy-efficient and forward-thinking as possible. Click the arrows to open each panel and learn more about the building’s features; click again to close.