The State of Illinois has approved the remaining funds allocated for the project, allowing NIU to begin construction on the $23 million Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability (NICCS). The release of $37.3 million will be used to launch facilities for five hubs of the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), created to accelerate job creation and economic growth through education, research, and discovery.
The majority of this additional funds ($15 million) will go to NIU for the construction of the 30,000-square-foot facility on the west campus of the institution. NICCS will be a research facility focusing on water resources, environmental change, and food systems, while also promoting science-based policies and practices for communities.
Work at NICCS will focus on three key areas:
- Improving water resources: NIU faculty, students and IIN partners will develop new sustainable water management systems for agriculture, industry and personal consumption.
- Predicting and managing environmental change: Research will be conducted on topics that include biodiversity, ecosystem restoration, environmental maintenance, natural disasters, climate change and response to extreme climate events.
- Creating food-system innovation: The center will conduct multidisciplinary research into new methods of food production, working with partners from across the state, nation and world.
President Freeman stated in her recent State of the University address that she expects the university to lead by example in sustainability efforts. To that end, a Sustainability and Climate Action Planning Task Force has been formed to spearhead efforts to make campus more sustainable and to assist in the creation of the first campus-wide sustainability and climate action plan.
NIU has a network of faculty members who have been working on sustainability issues for many years and have ongoing projects that contribute to the overall mission of the center. More than a decade ago, the university established its Institute for the Study of Environment, Sustainability and Energy (ESE) to foster research, education and community engagement about the environment and sustainability. ESE offers two undergraduate degrees in environmental studies, as well as a minor and two certificate programs.
Sustainability is at the forefront of many Universities. Just recently, the University of Hartford completed an energy efficiency project that will help the school meet its sustainability goals while decreasing costs by nearly $1 million annually.