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Sustainable By Degrees

22 April 2009

Boosting investment in improving inefficient and out-of-date university estates should help the construction sector in the recession and provide an opportunity to link ‘greening’ with capital investment. Jane Fenwick and Frank Booty report

University of Suffolk

EARLIER THIS YEAR THE HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) announced that some

£1,154m in capital funding, including £219m brought forward to help combat the recession, is to be invested in projects planned at some of the 130 universities across the country through to 2011.

The activities in the higher education sector in the UK emitted 1.8m tonnes of carbon dioxide (2006-07) prompting the then Secretary of State, John Denham, to say last year that “all institutions in receipt of capital funding should have plans to reduce carbon emissions, and performance against these plans should be a

factor in future capital allocations. ….The transition to a low-carbon economy has opportunities and challenges for everyone in higher education. Linking carbon reduction to capital funds will provide a practical means by which the sector can show leadership and demonstrate achievement in this area.”

The HEFCE has recently published a new sustainable development strategy and action plan to show how the HE sector can make ‘a substantial and exemplary contribution to the challenge of sustainable development both through the skills and knowledge that its graduates learn and put into practice, its research and exchange of knowledge through business, community and public policy engagement, and

through its own strategies and operations.

Steve Egan, HEFCE's Director of Finance and Corporate Resources, and Deputy Chief Executive, said: “We want to make sustainable development a central part of our strategy for the future development of the HE sector …. and support their future commitments such as linking capital funding to carbon performance to combat climate change.”

This linkage of performance in reducing carbon emissions and capital allocations will come into effect from 2011 when the HEFCE will adapt its Capital Investment Framework so that HE institutions can be assessed by mid-2010. In this context, a seminar hosted by Willmott Dixon recently and chaired by its newly appointed non-executive Jonathon Porritt* was highly timely.

“There is overall poor energy-efficient management at universities,” Porritt concluded. “It’s no good giving people a chance to make their own way to advance towards change. There can be no more prescriptive approaches.”

Since 2004, Porritt has urged whole life costing (WLC) to be at the heart of all capital programmes but action since then has been a ‘slow andtortuous progress’ that is “unfit for a low carbon society in the UK”, he said. He lamented that many initiatives have not worked and major decisions on projects were based largely on initial costs rather than on whole life costs.

“We will now see a more prescriptive route,” says Porritt. “The first stage is the carbon reduction commitment (CRC). Those in influence who don’t do it now will look back at this last window where there are relatively low energy prices with regret. A new political will is called for.”

He continued: “Government’s failure to embed WLC in capital programmes means that to stay below the two-degrees C rise in temperature calls for stabilising at 450ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and this stipulates an 80 percent cut in UK emissions by 2050. However, none of the science emerging since 2005 is captured in government positions on climate change.”

Also speaking at the seminar was Andrew Smith, head of estates and sustainable development at HEFCE. He argued that “Beyond the context of universities as businesses, they will play a fundamental part

in the generation and transfer of sustainability knowledge. This will con cern the way businesses operate,

strategies are created and buildings are built. There will be a drive for improved environmental performance and over the next decade, and the HE sector will be at the heart of sustainable development.”

He continued: “The sustainable development strategy and action plan will have specific requirements on carbon reductions. Indeed it will be a factor in capital allocations from HEFCE.”

University of Surrey

HEFCE spent £1,577m on non-residential buildings (2006-7). Key issues for the consultation on its carbon

reduction strategy are how to measure CO2 emissions. Should it be per student, per sq m of by university income, and how should progress be measured? This is important particularly where capital funding is to

be linked to carbon emissions. Consultation on the HFCE’s sustainable development strategy commences next month.

A revolving ‘green fund’ is being established with Salix Finance (part of the Carbon Trust) for £30m over three years. This will provide recoverable grants to undertake projects which reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “It concerns building good practice,” says Smith.

A version of the BREEAM standard tailored for the specifics needs of the higher education sector is expected to be launched in July. This standard will take account of the varying uses of buildings in the university estate from simple teaching rooms to high tech, high energy laboratories. The methodology will also cover green transport to and from campuses, waste, health and wellbeing of students and staff, and so on.

Smith explained that how the BREEAM standard is to be deployed in capital funding is still being evaluated. “Sustainable development should be the central mission from now on,” said Smith.

Derry Caleb, deputy chairman Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE) and director of estates and facilities, University of Surrey, says, “Some 40 percent of the current higher education estate was built between 1960-1979 and equates to 10m sq m buildings with a current replacement value of £25-30bn. Indeed entire campuses were planned during this period. At the University of Surrey over 60 percent of the space was built between 1960-70, a total of 50,000 sq m in a 4-5 year period. We have 1,200 non-residential rooms and a district heating scheme. “

With a large and complex estates such as his own, Caleb argued that universities estates departments need “a corporate vision, an agreed estate strategy and buy-in from senior managers. We have done post occupancy evaluation (PoE), and life cycle analysis in our estate planning and strategies. We recognise that good design is Important, as is understanding the sustainable and environmental impact. However, building services that should be replaced about every 20 years but they are often ‘sweated’ for a lot longer” .

The University of Surrey was recently awarded a Highly Commended in the Sustainable Construction category of the Green Gown Awards 2007-8 run by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges, for its successful programme of renovating its 1960s buildings. A significant part of the University estate was constructed in the 1960s and these buildings were no longer functionally suitable. After evaluating the buildings, the University made the decision to refurbish them rather than demolish and rebuild, and it embarked on a decade of investment in rejuvenation and improvements in energy

efficiency and structure of the buildings.

“When we upgrading the estate, we were surprised to find student numbers increasing because they found the environment more attractive,” explained Caleb. “We have a 10-12 year programme of improvements with two years to go. So far we have seen a reduction of over 2,000 tonnes of carbon and a reduction in energy of 8,000MWh. We have achieved an improved working environment for staff, students and

visitors, a more attractive campus.

Future proofing of design is key to this process, he explained, as less than 0.5 per cent of capital

value is spent on operating the buildings. Like many universities ‘churn’ is a big issue as flexibility is

needed to build research groups, for example.

* Jonathon Porritt took up his post in January 2009 to provide regular strategic advice on sustainability

issues for the first time within a construction company. Willmott Dixon has set itself tough targets for

Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

its sustainability performance including the company’s aim to send zero construction waste to landfill

and achieve carbon neutrality by 2012, while it also expects 75 per cent of its projects to meet a stringent set of sustainability criteria to be published.

CASE STUDIES

University of Suffolk

University Campus Suffolk’s landmark building, located on the Ipswich Waterfront has won the award of Suffolk’s Greenest County Business Building last month. Designed by architects RMJM, the building minimises the energy it consumes and thus its carbon emissions. A hi-tech ventilation system uses

the building's own concrete structure to store energy to warm or cool the building, retrieving heat from air leaving the system to warm fresh air coming in. There is no air conditioning system which also saves energy. A sedum roof adds to the structure's high levels of insulation, whilst absorbing rainwater and CO2. Much of the building's lighting is controlled by infrared sensors to turn off the lights when rooms are unoccupied.

University of Surrey

The refurbishment programme included the following benefits:

. Reduction in heat loss of 60 percent.

. Annual heating reduction by 8,000,000 kwh

. Reduction more than 2,000 tonnes CO2 per annum

. Improved in electrical consumption by replacing 80 percent of light fittings resulting in a reduction of approx 1GWH and 450 tonnes CO2

. Extended life of existing resources and considering further remodelling to extend building life beyond their original life span of 60 years

. Improved functional suitability and compliance with legislation

. Introduction of energy reclaim within ventilation plant where possible

. Introduction of centralised chilled water cooling systems in key node points

. Improved working conditions for staff

.No environmental impact due to demolition

Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

Queen Margaret University (QMU), Edinburgh, was shortlisted for an award for its ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainability’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008. Staff and students moved to the university’s

new £105m campus at Craighall last year. Designed by architects, Dyer, QMU campus is one of only few education projects in the UK to receive an ‘excellent’ BREEAM rating. Laid out over 35 acres, the campus is designed around an extensive flagship building which has helped propel QMU to achieving “Top 10

Modern University” status.


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