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New energy projects increase efficiency, cut emissionsDyson Perrins Building - PV panels

The Environmental Sustainability team has recently installed photovoltaic panels on the roofs of three buildings in the Science Area.

In September the Dyson Perrins Building received new PV panels featuring technological improvements over previous installations around the University – it features Solar Edge inverters and optimisers for the panels, which convert sunlight into electrical power around 5% more efficiently. The installation will last at least 20 years and is expected to pay for itself in 14.

Just before Christmas the Oxford Molecular Pathology Institute (OMPI) and the EPA Building, both in the Science Area, had solar panels installed on their roofs. The two buildings received 154 units in total; these will save around £5,200 a year, generate some 44 kilowatt-hours over the same period and pay back the cost of their installation in less than 20 years.

Insulations in Exam Schools roof Another recent project added insulation to the roof of the Examination Schools – a move that will cut heating bills by around £2,000 a year and prevent some 23 tonnes of annual carbon emissions. The project cost around £40,000 and covered 1,800m2 of roof space.

The roof space of the Clarendon Building has also been insulated; this will save around £1,000 a year, paying back the project’s cost in 20 years, and reduce annual carbon emissions by 4.2 tonnes.

New biodiversity strategy launchedBiodiversity Strategy Workshop

The University launched its new Biodiversity Strategy in early December, bringing together stakeholders of many kinds to a workshop where they discussed the best ways to implement it.

The strategy rests on four key ideas – the three so-called ‘Lawton principles’, which say green spaces meant to form a welcoming home for wildlife should be made bigger, better and more connected, and another principle added by the University to emphasise the value of engaging the public with biodiversity and conservation issues.

The launch event in St Luke’s Chapel attracted a wide range of people, including senior Estates Services representatives, officials from the City and County Councils, students, academics and people involved with local conservation groups.

After talks on how biodiversity affects the work of Estates Services, participants formed small groups to think up ideas on how it could be promoted across the estate. They came up with suggestions ranging from changing methods of mowing roadside verges to attract more plants and insects to installing bat boxes and leaving dead wood on the ground rather than tidying it up. Their proposals will now be considered by the newly-formed Biodiversity Working Group, which will decide which should receive priority for funding.

Better boilers for the Science Area

The University has appointed Autoflame to upgrade all three burners in Boiler House 1, which generates heat for up to nine buildings in the Science Area. The company will install highly efficient fully-variable burners, giving the boilers the ability to vary how much gas they burn depending on how much heat is needed. This technology upgrade will reduce the wasted gas that was producing excess heat and putting unnecessary stress on the network of pipes that move hot water around the area. The work is expected to reduce annual carbon emissions by some 116 tonnes, and to pay for itself within around 42 months. It should be finished by the end of the University heating season in April. The project was a collaboration between colleagues in Environmental Sustainability, Building Services and the DLO (Direct Labour Organisation). 

University supports call for a safer Oxford for cyclistsOxford Cyclist

The University of Oxford’s Sustainability Steering Group and the Chair of the Buildings & Estates Sub-committee have agreed to endorse the Claudia Charter, which sets out a vision to make Oxford a safer city to cycle in.

The charter responds to the tragic death of Claudia Comberti, who was killed in an accident on Botley Road while cycling in May 2017. It calls for greater respect for vulnerable road users like cyclists; a decisive commitment to increasing cycle safety from local government, including pledges to spend £10 per person per year on cycle safety and to provide training in schools on how to stay safe while travelling by bike; and better cycling infrastructure such as segregated cycle paths and improved provision for cyclists at junctions.

The University joins the charter’s existing supporters – local cycling advocacy group Cyclox, the Broken Spoke Bike Co-op and national cycling organisation Cycling UK.

New glass dryers slash energy consumption

As part of the University’s drive to reduce carbon emissions, the Environmental Sustainability team have funded the replacement of all old inefficient glass dryers on the functional estate. These old units use even more energy than an ultra-low temperature freezer, itself a large and notably power-hungry piece of scientific equipment.

36 of the new units have been supplied so far, and 122 more are being installed at the Chemistry Research Laboratory in the coming months. The new units come with insulation and a 24-hour timer to reduce the need to leave them on all the time, increasing safety and reducing energy consumption. The whole project will pay back its initial costs in three years and should save over 300 tonnes of carbon a year.

21 of the old dryers have now been sold on under the UniGreen scheme, designed to let universities profit from their unwanted assets rather than having them sit unproductively in storage or be thrown away. The sale raised £21,000, which will be re-invested in energy-saving projects. 

More steady growth for Science Transit ShuttleTransit Shuttle

The Science Transit Shuttle service grew considerably during 2017, expanding to run an additional route between Wytham and the John Radcliffe Hospital. It is now carrying some 1,500 passengers a week, and has recently changed its fare structure including the introduction of charging for journeys on the new route – more information about these changes is available online.

Various improvements have been made based on user feedback, including an extra shuttle to and from Harwell during peak commuting periods in the morning. More are now in the pipeline for 2018, including a new bus stop on Mansfield Road, a stop at St Clements for the ST2 route between the Science Area and the Headington science sites and the introduction of e-ticketing.

Make a sustainable start to 2018

This year’s Green Impact campaign, which enlists teams of staff and students to make buildings around the University estate more sustainable, is kicking off in earnest, but there is still time to get involved. Staff whose buildings already have Green Impact teams would be very welcome to join in. Staff working in buildings that do not yet have a team can still form one – please contact sustainability@admin.ox.ac.uk to find out more.

It is also a great time to take a look at WARPIt, the University’s re-use scheme which connects departments and buildings with unwanted equipment with those who can put it to use. The idea is to cut waste and save money; the items already exchanged over WARPIt range from office furniture to plants and lab equipment. For users whose space is being wasted storing equipment that is no longer used, WARPIt makes it easy to have a clear-out.

Even if the bulky objects cluttering the place up are the kind nobody would want, staff can still get rid of them using the University’s Junk Collector service. This is a weekly collection organised by Select Environmental, the University’s waste collection contractors. To arrange a collection, contact wastemanagement@admin.ox.ac.uk.

Student Switch-Off maintains strong engagement

The University’s Student Switch-Off programme, which aims to engage students with sustainability and create awareness around environmental issues, is having another strong year. Oxford’s engagement scores tend to be excellent compared to other UK universities, and this year’s figures so far are no exception, with 2,614 students signed up and 64 students completing Ambassador training to support their colleges. Oxford saw 2,800 students completing the first climate change quiz – Mansfield scooped the prize with over half their students taking part – and the next quiz will launch soon. Students have also organised a wide range of awareness-raising events – for instance, St John’s College have hosted a tour of Oxford’s ethical shops; Exeter, Kellogg and St Catherine’s have held Blue Planet 2 screenings, and many others are hosting vegan, vegetarian and Fair Trade formal halls and brunches.

Measuring emissions from University vehicles

The University has signed up to take part in a trial of new technology that measures vehicle emissions in real time. The trial is being run by Tantalum, the company that developed the technology, known as Air.Car, in collaboration with Imperial College London; Bristol Waste Company, which operates Bristol City Council’s waste collection services, has also agreed to take part.

Sensors will be installed on around half of the University’s fleet of vehicles, from cars and vans through to minibuses. By connecting to each vehicle’s on-board computer, they will provide real-time estimates of emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and various oxides of nitrogen, which cause serious health damage.

If it works well, the technology has the potential to help local governments all over the UK hit their air quality targets by giving them a much more accurate idea of where pollution is coming from. This kind of information will be vital if Oxford City Council is to achieve its goal of setting up a zero emission zone in the city centre by 2020. It will also help the University measure, understand and reduce the emissions produced by its vehicles, improving local air quality and reducing its carbon footprint as well as potentially cutting fuel costs.

Love to Ride scheme aims to get Oxford on its bike UniCycle Logo

Oxford is one of six higher education institutions to pilot the National Union of Students UniCycle initiative, to show people how easy and enjoyable cycling is, both for seasoned cyclists and newbies. The website launched in December, and anyone can sign up. By downloading the mobile phone app and registering their departments or colleges, users can track how many miles they have cycled. The pilot runs until summer and is intended to encourage staff and students who are new to cycling to give it a go.

University helps develop new Fairtrade scheme

Oxford has worked with 12 other universities and colleges to develop a new methodology for certifying Fairtrade universities. The new framework is more flexible and makes it more practical for higher education institutions to implement policies supporting Fairtrade suppliers. The institutions involved will now be piloting the new methodology, seeking accreditation under the new standard; if the trials go well it will then be made available to others in the sector.

The Environmental Sustainability team are working with students, colleges and the new catering contractor, Compass, to work through the criteria. Their plans include making a range of Fairtrade products available in University catering outlets, holding Fair Trade Fortnight events, and launching a Fairtrade survey for staff and students. The entry will be ready to submit in April, with results revealed in June, so watch this space.

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