Loyola University Chicago

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Loyola University Chicago

Institute of Environmental Sustainability

Landscape & Biodiversity

Loyola's campus landscapes are award winning locations that connect to Chicago and the larger ecological region, providing the campus community with rich spiritual and ecological experiences.

Native Landscaping

Loyola includes native landscaping on its grounds to honor the region's natural heritage and to provide habitat for native fauna. Installation of native vegetation helps reduce water use due to the vegetation's evolved ability to adapt to dry summer conditions.

Edible, Native Plants

Students mapped the edible landscape of the Lake Shore Campus to educate the Loyola community about the possibility of growing food anywhere and everywhere. As part of the STEP: Food Systems course project, the aim was to bring the concept of food closer to home, localizing and personalizing food for an urban population. For more information, See Edible Landscaping.


Water smart landscaping requires the incorporation of drought tolerant vegetation and technology. On campus implementation of such includes a "Smart Irrigation System" which uses weather station data and sections landscaped areas into zones to conserve water.

  • The irrigation system is on zones and tied back to a controller and remains off except during hot, dry spells
  • Spray heads reduce water use by 30%
  • Watering takes place during early morning hours when evaporation rates are the lowest
  • During dry spells, grass and other vegetation are watered only three days a week with varying times of 3-5 minutes to 15-20 minutes.
  • Each zone has a rain sensor that shuts down watering if rain is detected. 

And due to the "smart" system that senses moisture due to rainfall, the irrigation system was used only in August during a cool, wet summer in 2010.

Most of the plants on Loyola's campuses do not require much in the way of water, but given the sandy soil around the Lake Shore Campus, irrigation is the most efficient way to get water to trees and shrubs when stressful, dry conditions exist. The irrigation remains off except during hot dry spells. During dry spells the grass is watered three days a week for 15 to 20 minutes and shrubs are watered three times a week for 3 to 5 minutes. We now use new spray heads that are more efficient and reduce water use by 30%. The new heads will replace the other heads over time.

Migratory Bird Habitat

Our native landscaping provides habitat and food for native species and migratory birds traveling along the Lake Michigan shoreline on the Mississippi River flyway. Loyola students work with facilities managers to make buildings "bird-safe" during migratory season by closing blinds and turning out lights to prevent birds from flying into windows and by rescuing injured birds for rehabilitation. Learn more about SOAR: Student Operation for Avian Relief.

The Avian Species Structure at LUREC report by Fr. Stephen Mitten and Edgar J. Perez (2012 Biodiversity intern) presents findings of a breeding census of the avian community residing on the Retreat and Ecology Campus. Recommendations for considerations of avian habitat structure and food availability in future wetland and woodland restoration are provided.

Ecological Restoration at the Retreat & Ecology Campus

The Retreat and Ecology Campus has globally rare wetlands and oak woodlands, an organic farm and apiary, and a peaceful landscape for spiritual contemplation. At LUREC, we are in the process of restoring the biodiversity of fragile ecosystems in rural Illinois while teaching students about the interconnectedness of nature. We are working from a comprehensive Ecological Restoration Plan.

Buckthorn Removal: Buckthorn is a type of tree that is invasive when it crops up outside its natural European habitat. Students and volunteers work hard to remove buckthorn from LUREC wetlands and woodlands. They strive to weed out unnatural, unwanted species and reintroduce native biodiversity.

Wetland Restoration: The restoration of the LUREC wetland will require draining the man-made pond and restoring it back to its original deep-wetland state. It will involve students measuring the response of plants, animals, and insects with the goal of increasing biodiversity and restoring ecosystem function.

Eventually, an elevated walking trail (wooden platform) will be built throughout the wetland for educational use.

Green Rooftops

Loyola has more green roofs than any other college in the Midwest. They can be found on all three campuses:

Water Tower Campus

  • Phillip H. Corboy Annex, 20 East Chicago Avenue
  • Rev. Raymond C. Baumhart, S.J., Residence Hall & Terry Student Center

Lake Shore Campus

  • Richard J. Klarchek Information Commons
  • Cuneo Hall
  • Mundelein Hall
  • Norville Center for Intercollegiate Althletics
  • Michael R. and Marilyn C. Quinlan Life Sciences Education & Research Center

Health Sciences Campus (Maywood)

  • Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing Building

The Quinlan roof resembles a native Illinois Prairie in order to provide habitat for wildlife like pollinating insects and birds.

While most of these buildings incorporated green rooftop design as part of new construction on campus, a green rooftop was added to the Mundelein Hall building (a historical landmark buiding) during a 2010–2012 renovation project, showing that Loyola is committed to both building green and renovating green.

Urban Agriculture Across the Loyola Campuses

The project is aligned with current developments in Chicago and cities across North America where plans for sustainable local food systems include urban agriculture are in place.  It provides interactive, real-world educational tools for students, faculty, staff and community members.

  • Two garden demonstration sites on the Lake Shore Campus
  • Student interns manage the Gardens and gain knowledge of food production in a midwestern urban environment
  • Produce is donated to a local charity
  • Applies transferable, low-tech innovative food production in the urban environment

Other locations of Urban Agriculture across the Loyola Campuses:

  • Mertz Hall rooftop container gardens
  • Quinlan LSB 5th floor production green roof
  • Edible landscaping map project
  • Lease land to Vedgewater community garden
  • Loyola University Medical Center community garden project

The many examples of gardening and urban agriculture at Loyola have begun a reawakening of the importance of understanding and protecting our local and global food systems. As a result of a student project in the STEP: Food Systems course, the Urban Agriculture Demonstration Gardens grow more than 15 varieties of vegetables and herbs which are donated to a local charity, A Just Harvest, a soup kitchen in Rogers Park.

Sustainable Storm Water Management

Water use for irrigation has been decreased and the stormwater diversion from the sewer system back into Lake Michigan has been dramatically increased to 13 million gallons per year. Green roofs have been installed and more are underway on over 50,000 square feet of roof space and will result in 8 LEED Certified buildings. Read more about our Water Conservation focus. For more information, see our Storm Water Management page.

Environmental Stewardship on Alumni Service Day

As part of Alumni Service Day former Loyola students can gather together and for service-related events incorporating environmental stewardship:

  • Ellis Park, a Chicago park clean up
  • Vegetable Garden planting at Erie Family Health Center
  • A beach cleanup along the shores of Lake Michigan in partnership with the Alliance for the Great Lakes and Alderman Osterman
  • A wetland restoration day at the Loyola Retreat and Ecology Campus


Institute of Environmental Sustainability
Loyola University Chicago · 1032 W. Sheridan Road
Chicago, IL 60660 · Phone: 773-508-2130 · IES@luc.edu

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