Fall 2016 - 60505 - PA680PA - Policy Research Project | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Fall 2016 - 60505 - PA680PA - Policy Research Project

Sustainable Development

The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs (LBJ School) is cooperating with the Office of Sustainability hereafter referred to as (SO) of The University of Texas at Austin (UT) to offer a class that trains students in the practice of sustainability analysis and public policy. The class will be built around a sustainability audit of the water use, energy use, and waste management practices at five off-site (outside of Austin) facilities managed by The University of Texas at Austin: (a) the McDonald Observatory in West Texas (McDonald Observatory, 82 Mt. Locke Road, McDonald Observatory, TX 79734, telephone: 432-426-3263); (b) the UT Marine Science Institute in the College of Natural Sciences in Port Aransas, Texas (UT Marine Science Institute, 855 E. Cotter Ave., Port Aransas, TX 78373 or 6750 Channel View Drive, Port Aransas, TX 78373, telephone 361-749-6711); (c) the Windale Historical Center near Round Top, Texas (Winedale Historical Center, 3738 FM 2714, Round Top, TX 78954-4901, telephone 979-278-3530); (d) the Sam Rayburn Museum in Bonham, Texas (Sam Rayburn Museum, 800 West Sam Rayburn Drive, St. Hwy. 56, Bonham, TX 75418, or P.O. Box 309, Bonham, TX 75418, telephone: 903-583-2455) and (e) the Briscoe-Garner Museum on Uvalde, Texas (Briscoe-Garner Museum, 333 North Park Drive, Uvalde, TX 78801-4658, telephone 830-278-3018).

The PRP will involve a training and certification phase during the first six weeks of class, three rounds of field visits to the facilities being audited, with close cooperation among class members, facility managers, and UT-Austin sustainability professionals to develop policy options to reduce water and energy use and improve the management of wastes, water, and energy.


  1. A plan to reduce costs by conserving energy and water use and managing better institutional waste, water and energy.
  2. A plan to implement investments and improve management practices that can be implemented to enhance sustainability.
  3. A documentary video that covers the same content as the report and addresses how student participants’ plansoand perspectives have been affected by the year’s experience.

Preparation for Field Investigation

Class members will spend the first six weeks being trained in four professional sets of skills: (a) analyzing the sustainability of building construction (LEED); (b) assessing the sustainability of infrastructure (ENVISION); (c) evaluating the sustainability of the landscape of the facility (SITES); and (d) developing skills for auditing the water use, energy use, waste management, and procurement policies of a facility (auditing skills). A students will be able to obtain national certification for LEED, ENVISION and SITES if she/he is willing to pay a modest cost for the certification exams, which will be offered at special deeply-discounted rates because of the student’s participation in the class. (These certifications have value on the job market, as professionals pay a substantial amount for both for the training and exams.)

Field Investigation

During October 2016, class members in small teams will visit each of the target facilities to conduct an energy, water and waste audit of the facility. Participants will work with local facility managers and staff to identify and describe issues and develop ideas as to what could be done to improve facility operations. The result of each field investigation will be a field report due by the end of October 2016.

Preliminary Improvement Suggestions

Student teams will evaluate options to develop ideas as to how to address any matters identified through the field audit and subsequent discussions with facility staff. The discussion of options, including an assessment of potential costs and benefits, will be completed by November 2016 and sent for review to the off-site facility. The off-site facility managers will be asked to respond by mid-December 2016 with comments or suggestions.

Developing Operational Plans

In January 2017, student teams will travel again to the facilities to discuss what can be done to reduce energy and water use and improve the management of wastes, water and energy and sustainable purchasing and facility management policies. A draft report of investments and policy changes will be prepared on February 20, 2017 to be sent to each facility. Each facility manager will be asked to respond no later than March 5, 2017.

Plans for Implementation

During Spring Break 2017, class members will travel for a third time to each facility to come to closure with facility and UT-Austin SO managers so to agree on investment, management and policy options to address matters in the facility as well as a schedule for implementation of such changes. A final draft report on the implementation of proposed changes and final estimates on costs and benefits will be prepared prior to April 2017. Remote facility and UT SO staff will be asked to respond by April 5, 2017.

Final Report on Public Presentation

After all comments are received, class members will complete a final report of a documentary video about their experience. Both will be presented to a meeting of UT facility managers, SO staff, as well as appropriate UT senior administrators in early May 2017.