09:28 AM

Future is Bright for UHD’s Newest Building

Thanks to Green Mountain Energy Sun Club Gift


By Mike Emery

The sun has been shining on the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD), and the future is looking even brighter thanks to the latest addition to the campus.

In August, UHD opened its long-awaited College of Sciences & Technology Building. The state-of-the-art academic facility will start a new chapter for the institution’s efforts in educating future STEM stars. As the University of Houston System’s first building built to LEED Gold standards, it is the embodiment of sustainability in practice with energy efficient lighting, its use of recycled materials, and smart design features, including a system that transports air conditioning condensation into a cistern that collects water for urban gardens.

Thanks to support from Green Mountain Energy Sun Club, the University’s greenest building will become even greener.

The Sun Club is contributing a gift of more than $250,000 to UHD that will fund the purchase of solar panels for the building, as well photosynthesis equipment. Both will be used to advance the education of students learning about environmental sciences and sustainability.

By spring 2020, UHD will have purchased and installed a 54 panel, 16.7 kilowatt off-grid solar system that will help power two environmental science teaching labs in the building. One of these labs has been named the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club Environmental Science Lab and will begin hosting instructional activity by the spring 2020 semester.

“We are honored to play a part in UHD’s vision of educating students about sustainability and designing a LEED Gold building that puts those concepts into practice in the College of Sciences & Technology Building,” said Mark Parsons, vice president and general manager of Green Mountain Energy. “Our mission is to change the way power is made and we share UHD’s dedication to renewable energy, environmental education, and reducing carbon emissions.”

“We are grateful for the support of Green Mountain Energy Sun Club in our drive to show students and our local community our commitment to energy conservation and sustainable energy practices,” added Dr. Akif Uzman, dean of the College of Sciences & Technology.

The Sun Club gift also will assist in purchasing a portable photosynthesis system for teaching, demonstration and research. According to Dr. Michael Tobin, associate professor of biology, this equipment will be used to make physiological measurements on plants in courses such as Plant Biology Laboratory, General Ecology Laboratory, and Environmental Lab and Field Studies. It will also be used by students conducting faculty-mentored independent research projects.

This spring, Tobin will use the photosynthesis equipment in a General Ecology Laboratory that will focus on native prairie grasses (located in an on-campus pocket prairie developed by students). The equipment, he said, will contribute greatly to their academic experience.

“A research-grade instrument to make photosynthesis and water use measurements will enhance students’ research experiences and increase the likelihood that their project results can be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal,” Tobin said.

Construction on the new building began in 2017 and reached substantial completion in July. It is the seventh building on the UHD campus and will it will house the disciplines of Biology, Biotechnology, Biological & Physical Sciences and Chemistry. It’s also the new home for UHD’s Center for Urban Agriculture & Sustainability (CUAS)—focused on promoting sustainable communities in Houston and beyond.

“The Green Mountain Energy Sun Club’s support is a valuable addition to the efforts of CUAS,” said Dr. Lisa Morano, the center’s director. “Our students will need to solve the problems of the future. Using renewable energy to run some of the labs highlights how sustainable solutions can be integrated into larger projects.”

Donations to the Sun Club come from Green Mountain Energy and its customers and employees. Since 1997, Green Mountain Energy has promoted energy efficiency, resource conservation and environmental stewardship. The Sun Club and Green Mountain Energy’s shared mission of furthering sustainability in the community is realized through partnerships with nonprofits and sustainability grants.

According to Dean Uzman, the support of Sun Club will serve as further encouragement for UHD’s students as they explore sustainability and renewable resources.

“We anticipate that this project to bring electric power to the environmental labs by way of nearby solar panels to inspire even bigger ideas in capturing and utilizing renewable energy sources,” he said. “This gift is great for UHD and great for Houston.”

The Green Mountain Energy Sun Club is a nonprofit organization committed to advancing sustainable communities. As a 501(c)(3) organization, the Sun Club® invests in nonprofits and focuses on projects related to renewable energy, energy efficiency, resource conservation and environmental stewardship. Since the program’s founding in 2002, the Sun Club has donated nearly $7 million to more than 110 nonprofit organizations across Texas and the Northeast.

To learn more about the Sun Club or to apply for a Sun Club grant, visit greenmountainenergy.com/sun-club/


About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.