Virginia’s Academic Library Consortium (VIVA) has awarded one of eight VIVA Open Course Grants to Virginia Tech to create a freely available, first-of-its-kind textbook, “Holistic Green Real Estate Management.” This is the fourth grant Virginia Tech has received through this program. 

Project investigators Erin Hopkins, an associate professor of apparel, housing, and resource management, and Anita Walz, University Libraries’ assistant director of open education and scholarly communication librarian, will create a comprehensive open education resource on the topic of green real estate management. This textbook is for upper-divisional undergraduate and graduate students and will be adopted by the fall of 2022 in the Property Management Operations course at Virginia Tech. 

Applications to the highly competitive grant program are reviewed by disciplinary subject experts, selected members of VIVA’s Open and Affordable Course Content Committee and others nominated and selected from VIVA institutions. Funded by the General Assembly and sponsored by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, this program empowers teaching faculty with the time and resources they need to adopt, adapt, and create no-cost and affordable higher education course content and textbooks for Virginia students. 

The response to the grant program was strong, with 31 applicants requesting nearly $500,000 in funding. Virginia Tech will receive $9,801 of the combined $155,885 grant funds awarded among the eight recipients. Together, all of the grants are projected to result in a substantial student cost avoidance of $1.9 million over the next five years. It is expected that students at 11 Virginia institutions will benefit from these grants and many more can adopt these works upon completion of the projects in the future. 

“This grant is special because it helps to support the development of an open textbook,” said Hopkins. “The book focuses holistically on green real estate management by incorporating the human and social elements of managing green buildings as well as the green buildings themselves.

“Green real estate management can significantly reduce the negative ecological externalities of the built environment while also providing benefits to various other stakeholders, including building users, owners, investors, property management companies, vendors, and the community,” said Hopkins.

The book will include links between environmental issues and place-based economic disparities, accessibility for the built environment and building management, the role of buildings in creating greenhouse gas emissions, and property managers’ ecological responsibilities. 

In detailing the project, Hopkins said, “I am extremely fortunate to be partnering with Anita Walz. Her work in University Libraries makes this a perfect collaboration, and I am happy she is serving as the project manager.”

Walz noted that her principal role is to map out each prospective project’s goals, desired outcomes, and development process in consultation with faculty. She then coordinates peer review by students and subject matter experts and oversees copyediting, copyright/open licensing review, graphic design, accessibility, and publication of the work freely online in multiple formats. 

To enhance inclusivity, the team plans to implement an accessibility plan that may include removal of barriers caused by sound, video, font size and type, file format, and tagging systems. This will ensure project outputs are accessible to as many student learners as possible. 

“I’m excited to get started,” Walz said, “and I’m looking forward to collaborating with Erin Hopkins on this important project.”

Once Virginia Tech students start using this freely available textbook, they will save an estimated $80,000 to $120,000 in textbook costs over a five-year period. Additionally, the general public and students beyond Virginia Tech will also have access to this textbook and could benefit from access to the material at no cost.

“High textbook costs may prevent students from purchasing required course materials and may make them less likely to do well in a college course,” said Hopkins. “By providing open education resource  materials, we’re helping students be set up for success upon graduation. Even when challenging financial situations present themselves, they still have access to required materials at no cost.”

So far, four other universities, including two in Virginia, have expressed interest in adopting or reviewing “Holistic Green Real Estate Management.” 

“I’m passionate about disseminating this information to students, our next generation leaders, to enable a more sustainable built environment in the future,” said Hopkins. 

Written by Elise Monsour Puckett