Supporting universities in the development of sustainable estates

17 March, 2021

The biggest pressure on universities in the current climate is set to be funding, along with the short and long-term impact of COVID-19 on them and the requirements of their students. With the need to transition to net zero carbon as quickly as possible to meet government targets, our director of sustainability and energy, Dr Jose Hernandez, discusses the all-important role the construction industry plays in moving towards more sustainable university estates.

The biggest steps towards more sustainable university estates will be driven by built environment specialists like ourselves. All clients – universities included – come to us for our expertise to deliver on their own visions.

This means we must ensure our approach to sustainability remains cutting-edge and that we put into practice all of the relevant guidance from university and industry bodies including EAUC, AUDE, RIBA, the London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI), CIBSE and the UK Green Building Council as things adapt.

At Pick Everard, we collaborate with universities to develop sustainability strategies and decarbonisation plans that encompass their whole estates and help them focus on the whole life cost of their development schemes to adopt a circular economy approach. This includes helping them apply for funding through programmes such as the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme and Low Carbon Skills Fund. We implement processes that put in place a traceable and trackable sustainability strategy for every single piece of work – ideally setting these specific targets within project briefs and even contracts to ensure clear KPIs from the outset.

We must make sure to consider the whole life of a scheme and ensure that all are as energy efficient as possible both for the benefit of the environment and client’s overall running costs. This means our designs must not just be fit for now, but for the future too and we must create flexible and adaptable schemes with the appropriate, futureproofed infrastructure.

Our work at Loughborough University Science and Enterprise Park (LUSEP) to create commercial office space for The Access Group, is one recently completed scheme that demonstrates this ethos.

For this development – which was delivered under Perfect Circle’s unique collaboration – our sustainable design experts used thermal modelling techniques to virtually test a design strategy that maximised natural daylight penetration through the glazed façade, increased building insulation to facilitate heating and cooling, and incorporated energy-efficient LED lighting throughout.

In order to ensure that the development will support future changes in our journey to net zero carbon, we ensured the inclusion of electric vehicle (EV) charging points so that the infrastructure required for the move away from petrol-dependent transport will be supported.

This approach to sustainability is something that we have been delivering on at Pick Everard for quite some time. One of our largest university projects – the Vijay Patel Building for De Montfort University – required an energy-efficient, cost-effective building solution that made the most of renewable energy to not only achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating, but also comply with Leicester City Council’s planning requirements for sustainability.

This commission was to redevelop the existing 1960s complex into new facilities for the schools of Fashion and Textiles, Art, Design and Architecture, and involved both new-build and refurbishment work over a total of 26,000 square metres.

We used dynamic thermal modelling to develop a solution that incorporated mixed-mode ventilation, building-mounted photovoltaic arrays and an optimised façade. Energy efficiency measures were required to reduce energy demand via a number of passive measures including natural ventilation and maximising the benefits of solar energy.

As we continue to move through a period of post-pandemic recovery, university budgets are likely to remain fairly restrained for some time, so being able to provide tangible figures for any scheme will be increasingly important not just for the construction phase, but for the overall running costs when the build stage is complete. Our thermal modelling capability allows us to calculate and demonstrate those tangible numbers, showing where the design can impact – and ultimately reduce – the overall running costs.

Our current focus is on developing energy strategies to campuses through Energy Masterplanning, Energy Audits, Building Performance Evaluations, Energy centre / Heat Network modelling and the creation of Digital Twins as part of the development and delivery of Net Zero Carbon ready plans, similar to what we are doing in other sectors.

We place sustainability firmly at the heart of what we do here at Pick Everard and we remain committed to helping university estates teams meet the potential housed in their existing campuses, while driving towards a net zero carbon future.

View News index

Don’t miss out!

Never miss a story, get them sent direct to your inbox. Simply provide your email address below:

E-Newsletter sign up