Sustainability Matters – Year in Review

The latest edition of Sustainability Matters is now available to read by clicking here. In it are a few of the projects that have been completed this year including the success of staff across the University in the Green Impact programme, work to improve and optimise the heating in buildings as well as big carbon savings being extracted from fume cupboard improvements.

If you have a story you would like featured in Sustainability Matters or would like some hard copies for distribution around your department please do drop us an email at

On campus this month: creating better places to study and work

We had an amazing Green Week and we hope you did too.

Work to reduce the University’s carbon emissions doesn’t stop there. Over the next few weeks, we will be making improvements to how some of our buildings are heated. Many of you have spoken to our team about this issue; we have listened to what you said and we are taking action as a direct result.

Getting our timing right

We are adjusting the times that the heating comes on and off in our buildings, so that we’re heating space when buildings are occupied. This work will happen behind the scenes, so you won’t see it – you might feel the improvement though, as buildings stay warm when you need them. We’re investing in making changes in fifteen buildings on Whiteknights Campus over the next few weeks to improve comfort and to cut our carbon emissions.

Getting in the zone

As well as looking at the timer settings for our buildings, we’ll be looking at where heating comes on. Different parts of buildings are often occupied at different times, so it’s wasteful to be heating the whole space when we don’t need to.

Taking control

Some of our older heating systems are set up with just a few sensors and thermostats in a building. If you have a sensor in your office or lecture theatre, the heating will be working to provide you with the right temperature. If you’re at the other end of the building to a sensor, it may be that your heating is being dictated by the temperature in a completely different area.

We’ll be visiting a number of buildings to install additional sensors to give us better control of the heating in different spaces. During February and March, you’ll see our teams in:

  • Agriculture
  • Harborne
  • Harry Pitt
  • ICMA and the ICMA Extension
  • JJ Thomson
  • Knight
  • Meteorology and the Psychology / Meteorology Link
  • Philip Lyle
  • Russell
  • Systems Engineering

Come and say hello!

Play your part!

There are some things that you can do to help make sure offices, classrooms, lecture theatres, labs and other spaces are as comfortable as possible:

  • Let us know if you are too hot or too cold – we can’t fix problems if we don’t know about them! Please email or call the Maintenance Helpdesk on 0118 378 7000 if your building is persistently uncomfortable.
  • Don’t use your own heater – using an electric heater in your office can make the temperature sensors think the building is warm enough, so the main heating system switches off for a while. You might be nice and cosy, but other people will be shivering…
  • Close windows when you’re done – fresh air is great, particularly after a heavy lecture, but if you’re using a room before lunch or at the end of the day, please close windows once you’re done to keep the heat in.

Thanks for reading, and for playing your part in helping us create better places to work and learn.

University ‘highly commended’ for its environmental progress

The 11th Green Gown Awards were held on the 26th November and saw over 320 sustainability leaders join together in Bristol in the celebration of sustainability excellence within tertiary education.

The evening was hosted by Dr Andrew Garrad, Chairman of Bristol 2015 European Green Capital. Andrew is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and is an Honorary Fellow of New College, Oxford. “I am delighted that, towards the end of our year as European Green Capital, Bristol hosted the Green Gown Awards. These Awards recognise the important role that academic institutions play in ensuring that young people have a proper understanding of both the challenges and the opportunities presented by sustainability.” Each year the Awards bring together the most inspirational projects from across the sector and this year was no exception.

Award presentation

The University was proud to receive a highly commended award in the Continuous Improvement: Institutional Change category. This recognised the success we have had in reducing our carbon emissions as well as increasing recycling and bus travel.

The judges felt that the University was at the leading edge in terms of estates and operations and commended its ambitions and its substantial financial and carbon savings achievements. They particularly endorsed the application of sustainability into the terms and conditions of all employees.

Since 2008, the University’s holistic approach to environmental management has enabled staff and students to come together and deliver significant and quantifiable environmental improvements. The University has delivered a 26% absolute cut in its carbon emissions, meaning it is on track to meet its 35% carbon reduction target in 2016. The University has increased passenger numbers on buses to and from its main campus by 20% each year since 2011, has reduced waste produced by a third and has almost completely eradicated waste sent to landfill. Together, this work has saved £9.9million and 32,155 tCO2, and in 2014/15, the University achieved certification under both ISO14001 and ISO50001.

The University were also shortlisted in the Facilities and Services category for the innovative soap recycling scheme at Greenlands, and in the Food and Drink Category.

The work doesn’t stop here though, we still have plenty more to do and we hope everyone at the University will play their part…


26% carbon reduction delivers £10m savings for University

With a year to go for the delivery of our initial 35% carbon reduction target, we’re pleased to report that by July 2015, the University had achieved a 26% reduction against its 2008/09, saving £9.9 million for the University, together with a further £2.2 million for and by our partner organisations.

In carbon terms, this has saved the equivalent of 9,767 household’s annual carbon emissions and as the 2015/16 term commences, we are confident of our potential to deliver that 35% cut in emissions by July 2016.

Carbon Progress Graph 2014-15

In 2014/15, we completed another £850,000 of energy efficiency investments, including vastly improved energy metering for all our main campus buildings.

The first phase of our district heating project was also completed, with the second phase shortly due to come online, which will provide heat to 16 campus buildings as well as generating electricity through a combined heat & power (CHP) engine.  We’re also investing £1 million in fume cupboard efficiency upgrades and our Carbon Countdown behaviour change campaign promises to be our biggest yet.

We’ll be monitoring and reporting our progress closely throughout the year.  Our visual tracker in the Sustainability office keeps our minds focused on this goal:

Carbon Tracker

Our full Carbon Management progress report provides further detail on the work completed over the last year.

Why meeting our carbon target matters and how we can achieve it


Opinion: Dan Fernbank, Energy Manager

 Back in 2011, the University committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 35% by July 2016; one of the most ambitious targets set amongst our peers over the timescale.  For very many reasons, meeting that target matters.

We have invested over £3 million in energy efficiency initiatives since 2011; already returning almost £10 million in cumulative financial savings.  In a period when the funding model for universities has fundamentally shifted, savings of this size make an important contribution to the university remaining financially as well as environmentally sustainable.  Both the investment and savings to date also fall very much in line with the original expectations of our carbon management programme; and demonstrate we developed and maintained a well-founded programme of work.

We developed our carbon management programme in the context of some ambitious targets set by HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) for the entire sector; to deliver 43% sector-wide carbon reductions by 2020.  As recent evidence has shown, for many different reasons a number of other institutions have struggled to deliver against their own targets; and the sector as a whole looks unlikely to meet their ambitious 2020 target.  Delivering our 35% target, en route to our 45% target for 2020, will demonstrate that targets can be achieved in the right circumstances and with the right resource.

The University is a world leader in climate change research and sustainable construction, and it really does matter that we lead by example.  We still have much more we can do, but our sustainability credentials in our internal operations increasingly support a reputation for sustainability leadership in our research and teaching.

This year is a crucial year for international climate change negotiations, with all eyes on the Paris conference in December hoping for a strong international agreement on tackling global climate change.  At the University, we have cut our cumulative emissions since 2011 by over 42,000 tCO2 (equivalent to around 16 months’ emissions from our entire operations).  We hope that on a local, a sector and perhaps even a national scale, our achievements can inspire others to emulate us.

Back on a more local level, improving the efficiency of our estate goes hand-in-hand with improved comfort; whether through better insulated buildings, better controlled heating and ventilation, or better lit spaces.  Energy and carbon considerations have become integral to major development plans on the estate, promising a continuing path to a lower carbon future.

As our new financial year (August – July) begins, we are just finalising our end of year carbon figures, and expect a total carbon reduction against our baseline of around 23% – 25%.  With our new district heating network being completed over the summer, £1 million investment in science lab efficiency and a major behaviour change programme just some of the initiatives we have planned for this year, we are buoyant, but not complacent about our ability to hit that 35% target during 2016.  Whether it’s the environmental, financial or comfort drivers that matter most to individuals, the benefits of meeting our target are clear.

RUSU lighten their footprint

Two energy efficiency projects in RUSU are making big impacts in reducing their carbon footprint.

In April, we re-designed the cellar bar in Mojo’s.  By sectioning off 1 corner of the cellar for the storage of chilled drinks, we have been able to remove one of the 2 chillers completely, and have reduced the chilled space by 78%.  At the same time, new energy efficient lighting and occupancy sensors have been installed, which not only savings lighting energy, but also reduce the excess heat given off by the lights.  In combination, these initiatives are expected to save over £8,000 and almost 30 tCO2 annually.

New Lighting

More recently, we have replaced the ageing lighting in the central corridors with smart new LED lights ceiling panels.  This has been a joint investment with the Maintenance department, who have funded a replacement ceiling; to really improve the look and feel of the space and compliment the smart-looking new Café Mondial extension.  Further lighting replacements of halogen spotlighting in both bars with LED equivalents, and striking new LED lighting to the upstairs office corridors with in-built motion sensors, will see a further £6,800 and 24 tCO2 savings annually.

One further energy efficiency measure of note is the double-glazing to Mojo’s as part of the Café Mondial extension works, making for a smarter, more efficient Union building all round!

University nominated for 3 Green Gown Awards!

GGA Finalist image

It was announced today that the University of Reading has been nominated for 3 Green Gown Awards demonstrating its ongoing commitment to sustainability and environmental improvement.

85 motivational and inspiring sustainability projects representing 51 educational institutions across the UK were submitted. As a result there was great competition from Universities across the UK – all vying for the most prestigious recognition of best practice within the tertiary education sector.

The nominations are for the following:

Continuous Improvement: Institutional Change – Ready, Steady, Green

The entry highlighted the progress the University has made over the last 5 years in developing and implementing its sustainability policies.

Facilities and Services – Greenlands CleanConscience

This entry focused on how the University’s Greenlands campus is pioneering soap recycling to both reduce waste as well as diseases in developing countries.

Food and Drink – Making Beer Green

Our Making Beer Green Initiative is specifically focussed on improving the sustainability of our seven bar operations spread across seven sites. It was discovered early on that we needed to make many small changes rather than one large and impressive ‘wow’ change and this entry focuses on those.

Now in their eleventh year, the Green Gown Awards recognise the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities, colleges and the learning and skills sectors across the UK. With sustainable development moving up the global agenda, the Awards are now established as the most prestigious recognition of sustainability excellence within the tertiary education sector, as well as the environmental sector

The winners will be announced at the Green Gown Awards Ceremony and we are proud to announce that the Green Gown Awards will be coming to Bristol, the European Green Capital for 2015. And not only that, the Awards Ceremony taking place on 26 November, will be hosted in one of the oldest train stations in the world, at Brunel’s Old Station

University placed in top 3 for carbon reduction!

The University of Reading has been placed 3rd in a league table of how successfully English universities are reducing their carbon emissions.

The figures, which have been collated by independent consultants and based on HESA and Hefce data, show that between 2005 and 2013 we reduced our total emissions by 45%.

The University aspires to be a leader in sustainability through its teaching, research and operational activities and this result helps confirm we are meeting this challenge. As part of this commitment, the University has created a dedicated Sustainability Team which manages energy, waste and sustainable travel across its three campuses. The team also leads on the implementation of the Carbon Management Plan which was signed off in 2011 by the Vice-Chancellor and sets out an ambitious strategy for carbon reduction.  Sustainability is now embedded into the majority of strategic decisions across the University and has become a part of everyday life for staff and students alike.

We are constantly identifying ways to reduce our carbon footprint and in the last year alone we have delivered projects which include;

  • Investing £250,000 to redesign and upgrade 44 fume cupboards which will result in annual savings of 343 tonnes CO2 and £88,000.
  • The installation of building level metering across the University so we can better understand our consumption patterns and help us target future work.
  • Lighting upgrades including in the URS building and 3 of the SAGES (School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science) buildings which use more efficient fittings but also include sensors which dim the lights when there is sufficient daylight

Over the next 15 months, we will be working hard to meet our own carbon reduction target of 35% which covers the period 2008/09 to 2015/16. This work includes further investment in the remaining fume cupboards, energy efficiency improvements in RUSU to lighting and cellar refrigeration and the installation of solar panels across the estate.

In addition to this, the University has constructed a new energy centre which uses Combined Heat and Power (CHP) technology. This will provide 12-15% of Whiteknights electricity and heat for 16 of our key buildings. It is expected that once fully commissioned, it will reduce our carbon emissions by 10% and save £250,000 in annual utility costs.

We are also asking people across the University to help us meet this target by turning off any unnecessary electrical equipment and also making suggestions of ways we could save energy. We recognise there are opportunities across the estate for improvements whether this is the installation of draught proofing or fixing broken heating controls.

University achieves international Energy Management standard!

The University has become one of just a handful of universities in the UK to achieve certification to the international ISO50001 Energy Management standard.

The standard sets strict guidelines for how energy consumption is managed throughout the University’s operations; providing a framework to ensure energy is effectively managed for the long term. The certification covers Whiteknights, London Road and Greenlands campuses.

A key part of achieving this certification has been an estate-wide review of energy consumption and energy saving opportunities, to develop a prioritised programme of work to reduce the University’s energy use and carbon emissions. This is helping ensure the University’s ambitious plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 35% by July 2016 remains achievable, and that the University continues to build on the 23% reduction in its carbon footprint achieved to date.

A major focus for energy efficiency investment this year is in the University’s science buildings. Recently completed investment grade surveys have highlighted some good opportunities for investing on short payback energy efficiency improvements, while contractors have now been appointed for the planned £1 million efficiency overhaul to the University’s fume cupboards.

Meanwhile, the new district heating system is providing efficient heat to 9 buildings on the Whiteknights campus, with a further 7 buildings due to be added this summer. In combination, this project is anticipated to cut a further 1,200 tCO2 from the University’s carbon footprint annually and cut annual energy bills by £250,000.

To get involved or make suggestions regarding carbon management or general environmental issues at the University, please email

Carbon reduction updates – science buildings, RUSU, solar panels

We have a whole range of carbon reduction initiatives currently underway across the University.  Here’s a flavour of what’s we’re working on:

Science building energy efficiency surveys

Last year’s estate-wide Energy Review highlighted just how energy-hungry our science buildings are, and over the last couple of months, consultants have been carrying out investment-grade audits of the Chemistry, Food Biosciences and Hopkins building.  A number of low-cost, high energy saving opportunities for improvement have been identified, which we implement by July, including:

  • Improved control to heating in all 3 buildings, to make better use of the existing capabilities of the building management system (BMS)
  • Efficiency improvements to the compressed air systems used in some laboratories
  • Replacing worn chiller insulation

Potential opportunities to upgrade the lighting throughout the Chemistry and Food Biosciences buildings are also being considered.

Collectively, this work is anticipated to save 143 tCO2 and £39,000 annually.

Fume cupboard efficiency improvements

Staying with science buildings, contractors have been appointed to rollout energy efficiency improvements to fume cupboards right across campus.  This builds on 2014’s award winning pilot project and will see £1 million invested by December 2016 in an energy efficiency overhaul of the fume cupboards; with a £500,000 interest-free loan from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) matched-funded by the University.

Once complete, annual savings of £260,000 and 750 tCO2 are anticipated.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels

We are progressing plans to install up to 1 MW of solar PV panels across the University’s estate, which will save 490 tCO2 each year.  We are planning to establish a dedicated community benefit organisation, which will own and maintain the panels, selling the generated electricity to the University and at the same time, generating surplus funds which will be used to support a range of sustainability initiatives in the local area.

Detailed survey work is well underway, and more details on the scheme, including how you may invest in it and the benefits of doing so, will follow in the coming weeks.

RUSU energy efficiency improvements

Two projects in the Reading University Students’ Union building are expected to save a total of £14,000 and 75 tCO2 each year.  The first project will see the corridor lighting and Mojo’s bar lighting upgraded, whilst the second will re-design the Mojo’s cellar, so that only half the space needs to be chilled.

In addition, as part of the current Café Mondial extension project, consequential improvements required for planning permission will see efficient double-glazed windows installed in Mojo’s.

Further information

 As always, further information is available at cleanandgreen, or email us directly at or on twitter UniRdg_Sust