Barot creates new class, promotes sustainability

In kindergarten, Suhail Barot was the type of kid who got excited about the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. From an early age, Barot, currently a doctoral student in urban and regional planning, always had an interest in environmental issues. Today, this childhood interest has developed into his passion.

“I was always interested, but it was really at the U of I that it became from something interesting to something I can do something about,” said Barot, who was born in India and raised in Dubai.

At the University, Barot serves as the chair for the Student Sustainability Committee, or SSC, an organization that explores and funds campus sustainability projects. He is also the treasurer for the YMCA Student Board, which supports a variety of student organizations.

Suhail Barot, doctoral student in urban and regional planning, has worked through the SSC to initiate many sustainability efforts, such as the wind turbine project. Currently, the SSC is trying to implement the installation of solar panels on campus buildings as well as a campus food-based composting program.

Stephanie Zec, secretary for the SSC and senior in LAS, has worked with Barot on these initiatives and described how dedicated he is to the committee’s work.

“Suhail is probably the most passionate person I’ve met on all these initiatives,” Zec said. “It’s impressive to see all the work he has put into this. I think he inspires people on the committee to do more because he puts in so much of himself.”

Barot also helped to develop a new course in urban and regional planning called “Energy and the Built Environment,” which he co-teaches with Brian Deal, associate professor of urban and regional planning.

Barot said he thought it was a good idea to create a class that would teach people about the systems in buildings and how they operate.

“I felt there was a missing piece in the course offerings that we had over here (in urban and regional planning),” Barot said. “Buildings in particular are where 40 percent of our energy is used just in operating buildings. On this campus, 85 percent of our carbon footprint comes from our buildings.”

Deal said he enjoys working with Suhail and admires the hard work Barot puts into all of his projects.

“He’s one of our best and our brightest,” Deal said. “He’s not afraid to go after and do things and try to change the world.”

Barot originally came from an engineering background, getting both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the University. He said he originally began doctoral work in electrical engineering but was influenced to change his discipline due to the sustainability work he has done and his wish to turn his interest into a career.

“I wanted to find ways to make our energy systems more efficient, make our society more sustainable,” Barot said. “I wanted to work on that more, find ways to do that and urban planning was a better disciplinary fit in order to learn about and work on those kinds of things.”

Barot said because sustainability is an emerging field, he is not certain what his plans will be in the future. He adds that the environment will be just as important for society as it is for him.

“This issue (sustainability) is really important,” he said. “It’s going to be critical for our generation to deal with it, and I want to have as much impact on it as I can.”