Administration and Finance Focus

Administration Finance & Focus


Student team wins national sustainability award

By Kristina Michel

student wins award

A team of University of Houston students has been awarded the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s 2016 Campus Sustainability Research Award.

The student team, which includes the Office of Sustainability’s outreach assistant Joanne Ma, won in the unpublished undergraduate research category for its project titled “Water Conservation at the University of Houston.” The team was one of seven award recipients honored at the opening ceremony of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Conference & Expo in Baltimore on Oct. 9.

“The AASHE Sustainability Awards program truly connects the higher education community together. I am constantly amazed and inspired by all of the work other institutions are doing, and it’s important to celebrate so many great ideas, achievements and efforts under one collective awards program,” said Ma, an architecture major. “Winning this award for my university is such a huge honor because the award doesn’t simply showcase one case study. It highlights a variety of opportunities any university can take to improve its water management system.”

The goal of the team’s project was to analyze the UH campus’ water usage and to identify avenues where the University can expand its water conservation efforts. Some methods the team proposed included rainwater harvesting, weather based irrigation controllers to save on water used for landscaping, xeriscaping – a gardening method that relies heavily on the use of native, low-water plants to help cut water losses – and upgrading water-using appliances, such as showerheads and toilets, to more energy-efficient versions.

The entire student team consisted of Joanne Ma, who is also minoring in energy and sustainability; petroleum engineering major and math minor Justin Cruz; civil and environmental engineering major and energy and sustainability minor Itay Porat; petroleum engineering major and energy and sustainability minor Lawrence Giannotti; and finance major Thanh-Uyen Tran.

“Spanning 667 acres with a population of 44,331 individuals, the University of Houston represents an enormous investment in buildings, land and people. Its actions are important to the environmental health of the broader society, and students, faculty and staff are taking initiative to address various sustainability challenges,” said Ma. “Receiving this award has helped me realize that I do have aspirations outside of the field of architecture, and I’m ready to turn these goals into action.”

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Sustainability Awards recognize institutions and individuals leading higher education to a sustainable future. The Campus Sustainability Research Award recognizes published and unpublished research that contributes to the advancement of higher education and sustainability. The award is divided into three categories: unpublished undergraduate research, unpublished graduate research and published journal article.

Other award winners recognized included the Campus Sustainability Achievement Award winners and the Student Sustainability Leadership Award winner.

To view the UH student team’s winning project, click here.

For more information about the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and the Sustainability Awards, go to