15 May 2009
In March, the University’s proposed new Sustainability Policy and Strategy was presented to the UPARC Policy Advisory Committee. The new policy will replace the existing Environmental Policy and sets out the strategic direction that sustainability should be taking on campus for the period to 2016, together with targets that will need to be achieved over the period. Subject to some minor changes, it is hoped that the Policy will move on to Council for final approval in the coming weeks.
The Policy takes as its key focus the overwhelming need for carbon reduction. The University has made good progress in this area in recent years but we still fall some way behind the targets that the Government has set for carbon reduction in the UK as a whole. The University is obliged to join the UK Carbon Reduction Commitment during the next financial year, a project that will require that we pay for the carbon that we use on a year on year basis. There will be a significant cost to the University in buying our initial carbon allocation and a real concern that in future years prices will rise for any additional credits needed if we exceed our agreed allocation. This is of course on top of energy and utilities costs, that are already the biggest single element of expenditure within the Estates budget.
On a pragmatic level, the recent introduction of display energy certificates across the Estate confirms that in many cases, we have some way to go. The G rating, the lowest possible under the scheme, displayed in Senate House on behalf of the central Precinct buildings, is a constant reminder to me that the real challenge here is only just beginning.
The Policy is a major step forward for the University. Although a wide range of University activities are covered, much of the responsibility for delivery will inevitably rest with the Estates Office.
The Sustainability team will take the lead in promoting best practice across many areas that would lead to carbon reduction, including energy consumption, waste management, travel, sustainable purchasing policy and eco building design. However, I believe that everyone in the Estates Office will be able to make a contribution here. Sustainability needs to be firmly embedded in all that we do and I can see many real achievements across Estates that back this up.
A recent example is the completion by the Capital Projects team of the new Mews Animal Welfare Research Building at the Langford Campus. This building has achieved a BREEAM Excellent rating and has done it without significant additional cost. It is a great example of what is possible if the design team are briefed on the need for environmental excellence from the very beginning. It also demonstrates that if you have Estates office staff, external consultants and a main contractor working as a team that really buys into the concept of eco design, a great deal can be achieved.
Other recent good news includes the agreement of a new set of electricity purchase contracts at prices that are more or less at 2007 levels. This is a far better position than was anticipated. The new prices are for two years and I fear that they will not be repeated in future, so we should view this as buying a little more time to try and reduce electricity consumption. Gas prices will be tendered shortly and it remains to be seen whether we can achieve a similar result in a highly volatile market.
Please do try and find the time to read the new Sustainability Policy, and also the accompanying paper on resource implications. I hope that it will spark much thought and debate on how we should be setting priorities for the future.