Loyola University Chicago

Institute of Environmental Sustainability


The Institute is headquartered in a facility that includes classrooms, collaborative labs, offices, an atrium, café, Ecodome (greenhouse), aquaponics system, and residence hall. The facility boasts cutting-edge sustainability features such as the largest geothermal heating and cooling installation in Chicago, rainwater harvesting, and high-efficiency heat-recovery technology. The Institute joins several other facilities on campus as examples of state of the art efficiency (IC, Baumhart, Cuneo, Damen, LUREC).‌

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.  

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

The IES is home to Loyola’s blossoming GIS capabilities and courses. With state-of-the-art facilities and software, a full-time GIS Specialist is on staff to handle all mapping, visualization and analysis to improve the University’s understanding and actions toward greater sustainability.

GIS Capabilities Offered

‌The GIS facility is housed in the Institute of Environmental Sustainability, and computers are available for faculty and graduate students to use ArcGIS for research projects. We offer access to a comprehensive geospatial database of the greater Chicagoland area, with in-depth knowledge of the numerous publicly available spatial datasets from national, state, regional and local agencies and geospatial data gateways.

The GIS Specialist is available to consult with you on how to incorporate GIS mapping and spatial analysis into your work at Loyola, whether you be a student, staff, faculty, administration or community member.

For information on utilizing GIS in your research, contact the GIS Specialist.

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.

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.

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.

Artificial Stream and Pond Research Facility‌‌

‌The Artificial Stream and Pond Research Facility, located on the penthouse floor of the Michael R. and Marilyn Quinlan Life Sciences Education and Research Center, is a unique state-of-the art facility that offers the ability to conduct cutting-edge freshwater ecological research.

Faculty members and students can conduct research projects in a controlled environment year-round. Research is currently being conducted involving graduate and undergraduate students on the artificial streams. Expertise in guiding students through critical hands-on data collection and research analysis experience is a vital component of IES. Through innovative environmental research and student training, IES is poised to bring to the Chicago region valuable environmental assessment and leaders for tomorrow.