New “IDEAS” on Sustainability

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UNC Charlotte has established the new Infrastructure, Design, Environment and Sustainability Center to bring university research expertise to the solving of problems that arise from the complex relationships between humans and their environment.

The director of the IDEAS Center is Civil and Environmental Engineering associate professor Dr. Helene Hilger. “The purpose of creating the IDEAS Center is to provide a venue for the university to use its expertise to respond to environmental and sustainability challenges and contribute viable solutions,” Dr. Hilger said

IDEAS will have strong ties to both the city and county municipal governments, and will build regional and international research collaborations.

“We will provide regional leadership to accelerate a cultural and technological shift to more sustainable practices,” Dr. Hilger said. “We will foster dynamic and strategic research collaborations among multiple university disciplines, promote a region-wide climate of cooperation, and offer students a knowledge base and experience that will allow them to contribute to these advances.”

UNC Charlotte’s Environmental Assistance Office will be an integral part of the Sustainability Initiative. As an interdisciplinary group, the EAO has been working with government agencies and small businesses for a number of years to increase effective pollution prevention practices. IDEAS will also have strong ties to the university’s doctoral program in Infrastructure and Environmental Systems and will support alternative energy programs in the new Energy Infrastructure and Production Center (EPIC) on campus.

Research projects that IDEAS researchers will be involved in include:

– a U.S. Department of Energy ($500,000) project to research novel reuse of reclaimed construction and demolition wastes.

– various research initiatives to look at algae as a means for nutrient removal at wastewater treatment plants, after which the algae can be used as feedstock for digesters-to-methane or for burning.

– with funding obtained from the NC Biofuels Center ($100,000) and the NC Green Business Fund ($85,000), advance plans for a tightly integrated system to make biodiesel from crops and brown grease for use at Charlotte Mecklenburg Utility Department.

– provide advice and expertise for the development of a new high performance mixed use development in Gaston County.

For more information about the IDEAS Center contact Dr. Helene Hilger at