Sustainability is an attempt to provide the best outcomes for the human and natural environments both now and into the indefinite future and as such is definitely a governance issue. It includes:
Sustainable development principles must lie at the core of the education system, such that schools, colleges and universities become showcases of sustainable development among the communities that they serve
DfES (as was) Sustainable Development website had some good advice:
- Integration of environmental, social, human and economic goals in policies and activities
- Equal opportunity and community participation
- Conservation of biodiversity
- A commitment to best practice
- The principle of continuous improvement
- The need for good governance
Some notable examples of sustainable approaches to campus development exist in Scotland’s Queen Margaret University, Lauder College and John Wheatley College. Our case study on John Wheatley College outlines its intention to be a radical statement of the potential of alternative and carbon-free energy sources in a public building, setting new standards for educational and other public buildings in Scotland.
Policy and guidance
Sustainability is high on the agenda of the UK Department for Education and they and HEFCE have both published strategies after extensive consultation with the sectors and Scotland also has a Sustainable Development Strategy.
Sources of further advice and guidance
The Building Research Establishment has developed an environmental assessment method (BREEAM) especially for schools. Many building projects have achieved a school’s BREEAM ‘very good’ rating in terms of its environmental performance.
The Department for Education has published a ‘Top Tips for Sustainability on Schools’
The Higher Education Environmental Performance Improvement (HEEPI) was a project funded under the HEFCE Leadership, Governance and Management initiative. The project was based at, and led by, the University of Bradford. It provides guidance, case studies and benchmarking tools and co-ordinates the annual Green Gown Awards.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has web pages on Sustainable Architecture with links to case studies including education buildings.
The Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges (EAUC) has produced a guide ‘Biodiversity on Campus‘ which gives practical advice on a range of activities from ‘Making Biodiversity Happen’ to ‘Management of a Small Coppice Woodland’.
The University of Warwick has developed a website for staff and students that details their strategy and gives advice on environmental issues.
ETFE (Ethylene TetrafluoroEthylene Co-Polymer) is a transparent, recyclable foil used for roofing. It should last for at least 30 years and is anti-static and therefore self-cleaning. It is very strong, transparent to UV light and is not degraded by sunlight. This is the material used for the biomes at The Eden Project in Cornwall, England. ETFE has been used in many recent new builds including Telford College Edinburgh, Kingsdale School London and the University of East London.
Royal Holloway College, University of London, has developed ‘Green Roofs’ on new student accommodation. The roof is planted with species that shield the roof, provide thermal and sound insulation and aid rainwater management. Case study in EAUC ‘Biodiversity on Campus‘ guide – see the section on Practical Management.
Queen Margaret University Sustainable Urban Drainage System (known as a SUDS pond) to capture rainwater and hold onsite rather than contribute to downstream flooding.
Edge Hill University revised its initial SUDS scheme to bring about huge benefits for biodiversity. Case study in The Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges (EAUC) ‘Biodiversity on Campus‘ guide (see the section on Practical Management).
‘Natural lighting and ventilation not only eliminate the need for energy consumption, they also help boost productivity and reduce illness and absenteeism related to sick-building syndrome.’ James (2006)
These principles can be seen in action at John Wheatley College East End Campus.
Passive thermal design
Naturally heats and cools buildings using solar, high performance windows, insulation and air-tight construction, shading mechanisms to control heat and light from the sun and eliminates the need for air conditioning units.
Our Flickr Photo Gallery includes illustrative images from the University of East London.
ICT and sustainability
There are sustainability issues to be considered in the technology choices we make. Queen Margaret University has decided to use ‘thin client’ technology whereby PC users do not have hard disk drives at their desks as the hardware and software is stored on a central server. This minimises heat generation and therefore reduces the need for ventilation. Other organisations have gone for flat screen monitors for similar reasons.
The issue of sustainability is also one of ensuring that our spaces remain able to support current models of learning and teaching as they evolve. Technology is one of the most short-lived elements of a building and your vision must take into account a planned replacement cycle for the technology.
Edinburgh’s Telford College took the approach of standardising all of its IT equipment when it moved to the new campus (although some of the equipment was purchased prior to the move so that staff could get used to it). There are clear user benefits in having the same equipment in all rooms and the College considered its replacement cycle right from the outset. It estimated the lifespan of the various components as:
- 2 years – laptops
- 3 years – desktop machines
- 4 years – servers
- 5 years – voice and data communications
- 10 years – wiring/infrastructure etc
In planning for financial sustainability the college knows exactly when the spend will occur. All end-user equipment is leased. Servers and infrastructure were initially funded from capital funds although servers will also be leased on renewal. The college has found this to be the most effective option as the leasing company can reclaim VAT which means that they are paying 82-90 pence in the pound over the lifespan of the equipment.
There are numerous logistical issues to be addressed when it is time for replacement. The college has 1,250 items of end-user equipment and the original installation took eight weeks to roll out in the new building. In the live situation there are however only six weeks between the end of one academic year and the beginning of the next. Various options are being considered including rollout at 50% per year over two years or using both the Easter and Summer breaks.
The issue of sustainability also applies to the management of technology. Newcastle College estimates it has saved £45k per annum by introducing an automated system whereby a server powers up PCs in sequence after 7.30am (thus reducing power surges) and turns off every PC at 9pm. Whilst the situation may be more complex to manage in research intensive institutions it is likely that many institutions could make similar savings.