Like most of suburbia in the Midwest, the communities within the Chicago region rapidly urbanized in the last half of the 20th century by paving over farmlands, which had once been prairies, and draining wetlands, nature’s water treatment systems. Much of the land's surface is now impervious, and water is now intensively managed at great cost by canals, retention ponds, sewers, and a huge network of wastewater treatment facilities. But RU is working to put less stress on water resources through an evolving ethic of water conservation.
- Prairie—what was once acres of turf grass and previous headquarters to Pure Oil (also known as Unocal), has undergone unrecognizable transformation since 2010. About 9 acres of turf grass have been converted to native prairie habitat to include a biodiverse detention basin, which undergoes periodic, controlled burns, and a rain garden.
- Drip irrigation—installed in 2014, and used in the community garden plots.
- Permeable pavers—in 2013, a five-year permeable paver replacement project began at the Schaumburg Campus, allowing improved water infiltration and reduced runoff.
- Green roofs—8,000 square feet of green roofs capture rain and pollutants and the plantings transpire moisture back to the atmosphere, reducing runoff and pollution at the ground level.
- Plumbing—the LEED Gold Wabash Building saves more than 20% potable water than Chicago code requires, through use of aerators, low-flow pumping, and plumbing fixtures. The LEED Silver Goodman Center field house saves more than 30% potable water than required by the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 1992.
- Food Services—achieves 50% water and energy use savings though use of Energy Star-rated rinse technology.
- The Department of Biological, Chemical and Physical Sciences and the College of Pharmacy replaced wasteful and polluting distillation systems with Millipore water purification systems eliminating harmful chemicals in water and saving energy.
Prairie Restoration at the Schaumburg Campus
As of 2012, Roosevelt has replaced nearly 9 of its 17 acres of impermeable, water-consumptive lawn with native prairie grasses, rain gardens, and a detention basin. As a result, native prairie has taken hold and is a living reminder of how our state was: 60% prairie at one time. Today less than 1/100th of 1% remains. To experience the landscape and wildlife which met settlers in the 1800s Roosevelt created a prairie walk measuring just over ½ mile. The prairie is a haven for wildlife of all shapes and sizes. So come visit, bring a lunch, and immerse yourself in a bygone Illinois. Who knows, if you keep your eyes peeled you might be visited by some of the prairies inhabitants such as the endangered Hines Dragonfly or a family of Goldfinches.
Roosevelt’s Schaumburg Campus has a lot to offer in supporting biodiversity. The campus has received Arboretum Accreditation 1, is a Certified Wildlife Habitat, is recognized as a Tree Campus USA, and is a certified Monarch Waystation. Beginning in 2011, the RUrbanPioneers Community Garden nestled into the campus and has tripled in size and output since its founding. This ongoing local food effort advances sustainability by including drip irrigation, as well as soil improvements through the addition of compost. More recently, RU has undergone an arboretum improvement and installed two bee hives:
In the spring of 2016, RU’s Schaumburg Campus had over 60 dead trees removed, with many having suffered from the invasive Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). Instead of planting 60 of the same trees, we took a different approach: We have been planting trees that are native to this area, that will add biodiversity to the campus, and some of which encourage pollinators as well. To date, the total number of new species that we have added is about 15. During our 2016 Arbor Day Observance (which we held on Earth Day), we had children from the Bright Horizons Daycare (located on campus) help plant an Ohio Buckeye tree.
In the summer of 2016, two bee hives were installed on the Schaumburg Campus in order to add to campus biodiversity. The company Sweet Beginnings LLC., a subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network, did the installation, maintains the hives, and harvests the honey to turn it into sellable products. Sweet Beginnings, LLC. “offers full-time transitional jobs to citizens returning from incarceration in a green industry—the production and sales of all-natural skin care products featuring its own urban honey under the beeloveTM brand. The company manages apiaries (bee farms) throughout Chicagoland including in North Lawndale, at O’Hare International Airport, and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County Trailside Museum.”
Urban Habitat Supports Biodiversity, Too
The design of our Wabash Campus and Goodman Center buildings support local biodiversity in a two-fold manner: as part of an urban environment and for being situated in a Great Lakes region migration corridor. Their green roofs provide habitat for native vegetation, insects, and related microbes, as well as birds who find unexpected resting places, nesting support, and food sources there. Additionally, the mostly glass exterior of the Wabash building is designed with angles and patterns which help to reduce bird collisions in a lakeshore flyway.