Sustainable UCL


Sustainable Construction

UCL operates around 230 buildings - some of which were built in the 19th Century! UCL is spending £1.25 billion to transform the estate, and at the heart of the programme is sustainability.

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.

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Sustainable construction

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.

Completed sustainable projects

UCL 22 Gordon Street

22 Gordon Street

The Bartlett School of Architecture's new home is one of our most sustainable buildings.

UCL New Student Centre

New Student Centre

 Achieving BREEAM ‘Outstanding - our Student Centre is our sustainability flagship.

St Martin Le Grand building UCL

St Martin's Le Grand

The fit-out of St Martin’s Le Grand achieved the first ever Gold Ska award.

Photograph of UCL's Wilkins Terrace

Wilkins Terrace & Lower Refectory

Located at the heart of the UCL Bloomsbury Campus, this project brings together works to create a new public open space on the site of the former Physics Service Yard.

CGI of Bloomsbury Theatre Stage

The Bloomsbury Theatre

The redevelopment of UCL’s Bloomsbury Theatre has presented a major opportunity to improve energy efficiency and wellbeing for building users.

Photograph of KLB entrance

Kathleen Lonsdale Building

The phased refurbishment of UCL’s Grade 2 listed Kathleen Lonsdale Building (KLB) will provide improved teaching, research and social learning spaces for Earth Sciences, Physics, Astronomy and Chemistry.

More examples of sustainable projects from Transforming UCL and UCL Estates can be found here.

Resources for sustainable construction

  • UCL Sustainable Building Standard: This document details UCL’s vision and strategy for the delivery of a sustainable estate. It includes minimum sustainability requirements relevant to all types of construction projects from major new build to minor works.
  • UCL Cost and Carbon Tool: In support of our carbon management and reporting obligations, this tool enables users to calculate cost and carbon implications of different design options from early project stages. Performance is calculated over a 25 year period and includes payback periods for small building changes, major refurbishments or new build projects.
  • Mini Ska ToolThis is a cut down version of the RICS Ska methodology which has been adapted for UCL use on small projects.