At BU, sustainability is a key component when undergoing works to improve our estate.
This involves both developments to our buildings to make them more environmentally-friendly and increasing biodiversity around our campuses so that we continually improve our campus spaces to be healthy, happy and sustainable places for everyone in our community. This work is part of the reason why we're ranked 21st in the world and 6th in the UK for our contribution to UN Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action for THE Impact Rankings 2023.
Our sustainable buildings
BU is proud of the sustainability credentials of its newest buildings on our campus, which feature a range of low or zero-carbon technologies to minimise energy and water use and provide excellent conditions to support academic endeavours. The Sustainable Construction Policy outlines BU’s commitments to continuing to invest in a more sustainable estate and we are constantly looking to improve, modernise and make our buildings and estate more sustainable. Over the past few years BU has opened two landmark buildings, the Student Centre and the Fusion Building, and has also carried out major refurbishment works in other buildings and across our campuses:
- Bournemouth Gateway Building, opened in 2021: our second largest building and the new home of our Faculty of Health & Social Sciences received a BREEAM rating of 'Excellent' and scored 100% for the categories of 'Management' and 'Water', plus 82% for 'Travel' and 78% for 'Energy'. It has solar PV panels producing up to 127kWp of renewable energy; ground source heat pumps to provide low carbon heating and cooling; chilled beams for low energy cooling distribution; dry air coolers and adiabatic coolers; metering to ensure we can monitor and maximise energy efficiency; rainwater harvesting; LED lights; and ample bicycle storage and active travel facilities. Work in 2022 has made improvements to lighting to further reduce energy consumption.
- Poole Gateway Building, opened in 2020: this specialist building achieved BREEAM 'Excellent' certification for its sustainability features. Its installation of new LED stage lighting saves over 100,000kWh of electricity annually due to the far higher efficiency of the LED studio lights and a reduction in cooling demand due to lower heat generation from the high efficiency lighting.
- Student Centre, opened in 2015: the central hub on campus for the Students’ Union has a BREEAM rating of ‘Excellent’ for its environmental credentials. The building has solar panels which provide electricity to drive the ground source heat pump, which in turn provides a renewable source of heating and cooling for the building.
- Fusion Building, opened in 2016: this building also has a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating and is host to solar panels, green roofs and a ground source heat pump. Its combined heat and power plant provides a highly efficient way to heat the building, while rainwater harvesting reduces our water demand and LED lighting and triple glazing also support energy efficiency. The building brings the outdoors inside with internal trees and its large glass dome which allows natural light into the building to reduce the need for artificial lighting.
- Studland House: this staff building achieved BREEAM 'Excellent' for its refurbishment in 2021, exceeding our original target of BREEAM 'Very Good'. Work on this project was nominated as a finalist in the South Coast Property Awards 2022 in the 'Sustainable Development of the Year' category.
- Biomass heating system: this system is a renewable source of heating on campus, burning sustainably sourced local wood chips to power our central heating system with the ash then used to fertilise the next generation of trees.
- Bus hub on Talbot Campus: this six-bay bus facility offers UNIBUS passengers a high-quality purpose-built facility for their commutes. The canopy shelter not only protects from the rain but is made from solar glass and generates electricity for us to use on campus. Read more about our bus hub.
- Poole House: in 2023 BU have added a new 100kWp solar PV system to the roof of Poole House which is in addition to the system on the on the Poole House facilities block. You can see in real time how much energy we are generating from solar panels by clicking here. We have also installed a new Solar Thermal hot water system for the Poole House tower in 2023.
BREEAM & accreditation
Our Sustainable Construction Policy requires any new building constructed by BU to meet or exceed a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating and for refurbishments to meet or exceed BREEAM ’Very good’.
BREEAM is an internationally recognised certification for the sustainability of buildings, environmentally and socially, and by having these requirements built into our practice we ensure that our new and existing buildings are as energy-efficient as possible. A prime example of this is the Student Centre which, when built, became the highest BREEAM rated building in Dorset.
All of our buildings have Display Energy Certificates (DECs). The DEC’s are based on a range of factors that vary across every building, such as energy used to run the building per square metre, and are benchmarked against similar buildings. Each building is provided with a score rating of 0–150+, with highest ranking buildings having the lowest score, as well as a letter grading between A and G. The average DEC score is around 100. BU’s average 2019 building DEC was a C rating with a score of 66.
You can read more about the environmental impact of our buildings on the Energy, Carbon and Water page.
Moving forward to net zero
Estates development is a key focus in our plans to reduce emissions, and we aim to implement a capital development programme that reflects this. Our key actions within the CECAP for this are to:
- Adopt and implement the UK Green Building Council Framework Definition for Net Zero Carbon on all major development projects
- Update the Sustainable Construction Policy with commitments to net zero and nature-based solution
- Implement net zero principles at the design stage for construction projects
- Ensure budget envelope includes net zero commitments including offsetting embodied carbon and waste emissions
- Install additional meters across our buildings
Campus Heat Decarbonisation Plan
Since heating makes up over half of BU’s total Scope 1 and 2 operational emissions, heat decarbonisation is a key focus on the road to Net Zero.
A Heat Decarbonisation Plan (HDP) was created in 2023 supported by the Low Carbon Skills Fund, which provides funding for public sector organisations to develop plans to decarbonise their estates. Its purpose is to set out a road map from now until 2030/31, to replace fossil fuel reliant systems like gas-fired heating, with low carbon alternatives.
A thorough review of how and where the University uses energy was completed. This included building audits of twenty-one building across BU’s four campuses to assess the performance of the heating and hot water systems, electrical systems and for five buildings thermal imagery was used to look at the building envelope, to see where heat is lost through the walls, roofs, windows and doors. A list of energy conservation measures was then developed for each building and prioritised based on their emissions reduction benefit. The recommended measures are focused into the following categories:
Replacing gas fired heating systems with heat pumps will significantly reduce the demand for natural gas and provides the greatest opportunities for heat decarbonisation. The HDP identified 16 potential sites for the installation of 12 air source heat pumps and 4 ground source heat pumps across its campuses, with the potential to achieve a net reduction in emissions of 810 tonnes CO2e annually. As part of this plan, BU has recently secured £1.4m in funding from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) to remove gas heating and hot water systems from three buildings on its Talbot Campus and replace them with air source heat pumps by Spring 2024. Read more about this project here. Other exciting projects have been identified at a high level including heat recovery from data centres and the creation of an ambient loop and these will need to be developed technically in order to maximise the recycling of heat on campus.
Building Envelope Upgrades
Improving the building envelope of campus buildings will reduce their heating requirements. Using thermal imaging survey results, upgrades such as more efficient windows and cavity wall insulation have been identified across 7 buildings, with the potential to reduce scope 1 emissions by 65 tonnes CO2e annually.
Renewable Energy Generation
Renewable electricity generation will help to mitigate additional electricity demand when heat sources are switched to electric through the installation of heat pumps. In addition to BU’s 9 existing solar PV arrays, a further 9 sites have been identified for solar PV installations with the potential to reduce BU’s scope 2 emissions by 84 tonnes CO2e annually.
Electricity consumption from the grid that cannot be eliminated through building envelope improvement, energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy generation can by purchased through green electricity tariffs to further reduce scope 2 emissions. BU already purchases 100% renewable electricity through REGO backed green tariffs as detailed in our Energy and Water Policy. This could be further improved by using Power Purchase Agreements which BU are investigating.
Finanical Cost of Reducing Carbon Emissions
The HDP study identified approximately £17m (incl. VAT) of potential decarbonisation projects to significantly reduce emissions and support BU achieving net zero by 2030/31. Projects will be implemented in a phased approach as sources of capital expenditure and external funding are explored and the plan will continually evolve to reflect the changing landscape of a university campus and technology improvements.
You can read the summary Heat Decarbonisation Plan here (pdf, 1065kb).