Challenges in the development of environmental management systems on the modern university campus

Bridget N. Bero, Eckehard Doerry, Ryan Middleton, Christian Meinhardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to describe challenges and lessons learned in the design and development of a comprehensive, flexible environmental management system (EMS) in a real university setting; also to inform development of similar systems elsewhere and provide a modular, extensible software architecture for such efforts. Design/methodology/approach: A modular, flexible software architecture was designed as the cornerstone of a comprehensive, secure web-based data collection and analysis framework. Environmental data such as utility usages, waste generation and transportation services were identified, collected, and entered into the evolving system. The system is easily extensible to new environmental data types, and supported manual and automated data entry, custom "at-the-source data entry" mechanisms, and flexible tools for visually analyzing environmental data captured. Findings: Development of automated EMS systems for large institutions is significantly complicated by profound heterogeneity in campus infrastructure, management policies, and limited data accessibility; legacy data are often incomplete or inaccurate. Successful EMS initiatives must explicitly address these challenges through realistic project planning, choice of software technologies, design of system architecture, and administrative commitment. Detailed insights in each of the above areas are provided. Originality/value: The authors provide clarifying discussion of sustainability plans versus monitoring systems, place popular technological gadgets such as live building energy monitors into perspective within this framework, and describe design and implementation of a comprehensive environmental monitoring framework. The modular concept for system architecture, design approach, and lessons learned can inform the development of similar comprehensive EMS development efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-149
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Computer software
  • Energy dashboard
  • Environmental management
  • Environmental management systems
  • Facilities
  • United States of America
  • Universities
  • University facilities
  • University operations
  • University sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Education


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