Rooftop Garden

Ball State’s strong sustainability work is a big reason it’s one of only two universities that will get campus-specific solar energy designs from a new national contest.

A winning team of students in various disciplines has designed and modeled ways to bring more renewable energy to Ball State as part of the first U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar District Cup contest.

“At some point, we’ll be pursuing renewable sources of electricity for the whole campus,” said Robert Koester, director of the Center for Energy Research/Education/Service. “But that’s a year or two out. However, as we move forward, we’ll have learned from this contest.”

Being asked to participate is prestigious, he noted.

It has to do with our international reputation in sustainability. Certainly geothermal plays a part, but the contest came to Ball State because we’ve had a 35-year history of sustainability efforts.

No Cardinals competed in the 2020 contest because students work mostly in electrical engineering. Ball State provided data about the campus and buildings to the initial 61 teams; 35 were finalists.

Rooftops photovoltaics

For our campus, some teams designed an energy system using the sun, photovoltaics (they convert light to electricity), and battery storage,” said Koester, who’s also an architecture professor. “We’ll be able to put the winning design to good use.”

One multipurpose eco-friendly place already on campus is the Health Professions Building. Its rooftop photovoltaics create electricity for the building and save energy, plus the green roof system improves stormwater management, reduces air and noise pollution, and offers wildlife habitat. There’s also an underground stormwater retention system.

Koester talked about other recent climate-related steps Ball State’s taken.

“In addition to having a green roof on several buildings now, we’ve been pushing to try to get more photovoltaics installed across the campus. Ultimately, we hope for more on-site solar production of electricity.”

Green Facts

Ball State was one of 12 founding signers on a national collegiate environmental pact; we’ve also signed an international environmental statement by universities and experts. They’re among our sustainability efforts. More are below.

  • Dining’s tumblers and mugs are refillable — good for the users, good for the environment.
  • Landscaping staff creates mulch for campus plantings from yard waste, trimmings.
  • CAP’s Academy of Sustainability offers undergrads a minor in that area of study.
  • Ball State recycles materials, including concrete, from demolition projects.

Learn more about Ball State’s sustainability efforts at