Sustainability Expert Shows How to Fight Climate Change at Home

By Roger AndersonJanuary 11, 2018

“Homeowners can have sustainability without compromise,” says Dick Co, faculty director of House by Northwestern (HBN), the university’s first ever entry into the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition.

Building on the successes and momentum of HBN — a collegiate project that resulted in the construction of a full-size solar-powered home last year — Co will discuss energy-efficient living and share the team’s plans for the future at this month’s Science Café event.

“At the homeowner and local levels, we can lead the charge in fighting climate change,” says Co, the co-founder and managing director of Northwestern’s Solar Fuels Institute. “We’ve learned that doing good for the environment can also mean doing well for our wallets. With new technology, we still can also enjoy the aesthetics and performance of traditionally non-eco-friendly products in our homes.”

Co is a passionate advocate for sustainable development and was invited by the US Department of State to deliver a keynote address before a United Nations Forum on Science, Technology, and Innovation in 2016. He has since participated in numerous high-level discussions at the UN.

“The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals represent an ambitious but achievable set of opportunities that the world needs to keep working towards,” says Co, adding  that Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty signed onto the Chicago Climate Charter at a mayoral climate summit in December. “We learned that the 20th century left too many people, neighborhoods, cities, and even nations behind. This century, we need to all throw our weight behind these initiatives to make them sustainable for all.”

January’s Science Café marks the third time that Co will present at the event. Started in 2007 as a public forum for the discussion of important and interesting scientific issues, Science Café is sponsored by Northwestern’s chapter of the Sigma Xi scientific research society, the Office of the Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Information Technology, and the Office of the Vice President for Research.

“I really love speaking at Science Café events because they offer a unique venue to connect with the local community and communicate to the public about the bold ideas being pursued at Northwestern,” says Co. “The audiences are always so engaged and enthusiastic.”

Co, chemistry, will discuss the journey and lessons learned by the HBN team that competed in the Solar Decathlon last October. He also will highlight energy-saving technologies that are ready for Evanston homes and share the team’s next exciting project during his remarks at the January 24 Science Café taking place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Firehouse Grill, 750 Chicago Ave. in Evanston.

Co also serves as director of operations and outreach for the Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center (ANSER), whose mission is to revolutionize the understanding of molecules, materials, and methods needed to create dramatically more efficient energy technologies. He is also a faculty affiliate of the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN), one of more than 50 University Research Institutes and Centers on campus.