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Reading reduces carbon emissions and saves £17 million

The University of Reading has cut its carbon emissions by 35%, producing a saving of £17 million over five years

Posted by Hannah Vickers | February 27, 2017 | Sustainability

The University of Reading has cut its annual carbon emissions from 44,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2008/09 to just over 28,500 tonnes per year. The total carbon saved over the five year period is 63,000 tonnes, which equates to just over two years’ worth of the university’s current carbon emissions. 

The carbon reduction is the result of an ambitious target set by the university’s Executive Board to reach a 35% reduction compared to the 2008/9 academic year. 

To date, more than £4 million has been invested into projects to improve energy performance, giving a saving of over £4 million for every £1 million spent. The savings made will support the university to be more environmentally and financially sustainable.  

This achievement puts Reading among the top institutions in the country for reducing its carbon emissions.

Led by the Sustainability Services team at Reading, the University’s carbon reduction initiatives are split across seven key areas: 

  • Energy efficient lighting – replacing old systems with more energy efficient ones and implementing improved lighting and controls in almost all buildings on campus.
  • Heating, cooling and insulation – three kilometres of brand new energy efficient district heating piping laid, insulating of remaining pipes and roofs, draught proofing and improvements to the heating management system.
  • Building management – expanding the Building Management System to ensure building environments are well controlled and energy efficient, and installing hundreds of additional sensors across campus to better control heating and ventilation.
  • Energy efficiency equipment – installing solar panels on four buildings to generate electricity (saving the University £5,500 in 2015/16 alone), the University’s award-winning programme to improve ventilation to science lab fume cupboards and investing in equipment with lower energy consumption.
  • Behaviour and awareness – the University hosts an annual ‘green week’, with the opportunity for staff and students to better understand the contribution they can make by adopting better usage habits. This includes a Blackout evening, where staff and student volunteers sweep the campus on a Friday evening checking what equipment is left on that could be switched off over the weekend.
  • Efficient building design - all new buildings are now designed with energy efficiency in mind. For example, The Carrington Building, Hopkins Building and ICMA Centre, as well as recent hall developments, are highly efficient structures and once complete, the new Library will reduce its carbon emissions by 30%. In 2009/10, 34% of University buildings were above average for energy efficiency, now 72% are above average.
  • Business travel policy – the University has introduced a number of initiatives to promote environmentally-friendly transport: teaming up with Reading Buses to increase the frequency of buses between the town centre and campus and introducing travel discounts for students and staff; introducing a car-share scheme; providing over 3,000 cycle parking spaces across its campuses, including new secure cycle compounds. 

Dan Fernbank, Energy Manager at the University of Reading, said: “In addition to the carbon and financial savings, we’ve also seen improvements to building environments, helping make them more comfortable for staff and students to study and work in. 

As a University with climate change close to its heart, staff and students were keen to understand how small changes can make a big difference - Dan Fernbank, Energy Manager at the University of Reading

“As a University with climate change close to its heart, staff and students were keen to understand how small changes can make a big difference. As we look towards our next challenge, I’m sure the University community will once again come together to help us achieve our target.” 

Following the success of the programme, and based on Government targets, the university has now set a target of 45% carbon reduction by 2020/21. 

In addition, plans are already underway to reduce water consumption by 10%.

Professor Robert Van de Noort, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Planning and Resource), University of Reading, said: “Reading set itself a challenging target to reduce carbon emissions by 35%. Thanks to the efforts of our Sustainability Services team, along with our staff and students, we have reached that target. 

“However, the hard work does not stop here. Reading is committed to reducing its environmental impact and we are already working towards our new 45% carbon reduction target.” 

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