Creating a living laboratory is not an individual effort: it takes collaboration between students, faculty, and staff. It is crucial to have engagement and communication between all parties involved with living laboratories on campus to ensure their success.
Creating a Program, Not Just Projects
It is important to establish the foundation for a living lab program, and not just for a living lab project. A project implies one effort, while a program commits to planning and implementing several projects over time.
Establishing a framework is crucial to the success of a living laboratory program. Several colleges have living lab frameworks that are connected to overall campus sustainability and run out of their sustainability offices. Other colleges have programs that are directly geared towards living labs. Regardless, in order for a framework to be successfully established, it needs to be seen as a worthwhile initiative. For this to happen, the campus community needs to be engaged with idea of a living laboratory program and involved in the planning process. It is especially important to talk with Facilities and Operations, because their involvement could make or break an individual project or the overall framework.
Checks and Balances
Not all ideas for living lab projects are appropriate for the university or will be successful. Establishing a review board or another sort of an approval system for proposed projects will help ensure that only those projects that can ensure longevity and success will be implemented to avoid wasting time and resources.
Small Steps for Critical Connections
Regardless of the overall framework for living laboratories, living labs need to be integrated with students and faculty on campus in order to be successful. Taken individually, the following ideas represent relatively small, though not necessarily easy, steps to implementing a successful framework on campus. Taken as a whole, they are a starting point for transforming the campus into a full-scale, fully-utilized living laboratory.
- Connect with Internships
- Connect with Sustainability Minor and Sustainability Classes
- Connec to Rutgers Policies
- Create a Class about Campus
Larger Living Laboratory Connections
Living laboratories can be more successful if they are connected with other objectives on campus. A few of these larger objectives include stormwater management, resiliency, and sustainability. The George H. Cook theses of Rebecca Cook and Jessie Woods have begun to analyze current campus sustainability in terms of stormwater and transportation. The findings and proposals presented in their theses can be integrated with future living laboratory proposals.
It is also crucial to work with and augment existing systems. Living laboratories should seek to work with what is already in place or what is being planned, and those presenting proposals should look into any and all resources when planning a living lab project.
For Rutgers, some current documents that should be considered in living lab proposals include: the Rutgers Strategic Master Plan, the Rutgers-New Brunswick Strategic Plan, Rutgers 2030 Master Plan, the Facilities Sustainability Plan, and the Landscape and Stormwater Master Plans for Busch and Livingston and for Cook and Douglass.