What do we mean by a sustainable estate?
Achieving a sustainable estate means that we need to minimise the environmental impacts associated with our construction, operation and maintenance activities – for example reducing energy and water use; using materials as efficiently as possible; and enhancing green spaces. It also includes an emphasis on the wellbeing of our staff and students through the embedding of positive physical, mental and social health benefits.
Making new inclusive facilities a key part of the Transforming UCL programme will help UCL to ensure the estate is open to all, and will remain so for many years, without requiring additional work and resources. These developments include gender neutral toilets, level floored lecture theatres, and more accessible audio loops and visual aids.
UCL Estates and our Sustainability Team set the highest standards for all our construction projects through our Sustainable Building Standard. We are setting targets far beyond minimum industry standards and measure the results using independent environmental assessment methods (e.g BREEAM and Ska). We have established the following core sustainability principles:
- Maximising value throughout the building life cycle: We are future-proofing our built assets, ensuring that they are both robust and flexible to meet constantly evolving requirements
- Minimising energy use and carbon emissions: This will help us to reduce our environmental footprint as well as operational costs.
- Healthy and productive environments: We are prioritising the comfort, inclusion and wellbeing of staff and students alongside functional and technical requirements.
- Optimising resource use and the natural environment: We follow circular economy principles, using material and water resources as efficiently as possible, whilst also aiming to conserve natural capital.
Sustainable construction in practice
Our first priority is to minimise the consumption of resources associated with all our building projects.
In terms of energy use, this means that we prioritise ‘passive’ design features such as high levels of insulation, daylight and - where possible - natural ventilation. We also ensure that any heating or artificial cooling is as efficient as possible, including careful monitoring and precise controls. Finally, we aim to introduce clean, renewable energy technologies wherever practical – for example, we already have a number of solar installations hidden away on rooftops.
Our design teams seek to minimise construction materials as far as possible: this includes designing out waste; using robust products with low maintenance requirements; and specifying higher levels of recycled content. Retaining the concrete structure at 22 Gordon Street, for example, also helped to significantly reduce the carbon emissions associated with this major refurbishment project.
We are also pursuing opportunities to extend and enhance our green spaces – improving biodiversity by introducing green roofs and new garden areas.