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Sustaining a high standard

CAMPUS SPOTLIGHT: MMU has been on a journey to position itself as one of the leading institutions for environmental sustainability

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | July 10, 2015 | Sustainability

In 2007, when People and Planet released their first University league table, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) occupied a humble 91st position. By 2013 the institution had risen to top the table, and it has maintained a top three position ever since.

But the University isn’t resting on its laurels – a new environmental sustainability strategy stretching until 2020 sets out how MMU will become one of the most environmentally sustainable universities in the world, outlining their 2020 Vision and approach to support the delivery of the core strategic pillars: Teaching, Learning and Research, and Estates and Operations. This strategy includes some ambitious targets – to achieve 50% less CO2 by 2020, 85% recycling rate by 2020 and reduce water consumption by 25% by 2016.

Towards sustainable campuses: three zeros

With the opening of the Brooks building, which houses the faculties of education and health, psychology and social care, MMU has completed a 10-year, £350m investment plan, and the first phase of creation of an outstanding and inspiring learning environment. It represents one of the largest and most ambitious investment programmes of any UK university, and for the first time in its long history provides MMU with two outstanding university campuses, in central Manchester and Crewe, Cheshire.

Aspiring towards zero carbon, zero water, zero waste campuses, the BREEAM excellent-rated buildings embed sustainable design principles and support a wide range of technologies to minimise environmental impacts, create renewable energy and minimise and reuse natural resources. This has been recognised by numerous awards panels - the Business School and Student Hub has won the Prime Minister’s Award for Better Public Buildings and was the Sustainability Award Winner at The Concrete Society Awards 2012, and the Brooks building was named the RICS North-West Regeneration Award Winner 2015.

The next phase work in MMU’s estates masterplan will lead to a further £200m-plus investment, which will focus on a range of new and existing buildings along the Oxford Road and the public spaces that connect these buildings. Combined with the investment that has already been realised, this will transform MMU into an outstanding centre for university students, staff and the wider community, with world-class buildings and facilities, and setting new standards in environmental design, management and our student experience.

MMU has created a sustainability trail across its new Birley development, designed as an open access resource for local community, staff and students to learn about sustainable design, technology and landscaping right in the heart of Manchester. The trail features a wetland area, orchard, sensory garden, an onsite energy centre, zero water systems and a wildflower area. The University is working towards the international environmental management standard ISO 14001:2015 – they will be one of the first universities to achieve the standard. In March this year they achieved the EcoCampus Gold award, which is the leading environmental management system and award scheme for higher and further education sectors.

Sustainable students

These successes were achieved by developing an innovative approach that covers not only the physical estate of the University but also teaching, learning and research. They are also instilling a love of sustainability in their students through a range of projects, including the multi award-winning student-led food network, MetMUnch, which won the national Green Gown award for student engagement, and then went on to win the international prize.

Nurturing entrepreneurship and social enterprise amongst students, the network brings affordable, nutritional, local and sustainable food to communities, and provides real-life experiences for students, preparing them for their future careers. Deputy Vice-Chancellor MMU Myszka Guzkowsa said: “MetMUnch is important to the University because actually this is the strategic direction we want to go in – having live projects working with the community where students get the skills they need.”

MMU was commended by People and Planet for its approach to education for sustainable development, and is taking strides to ensure graduates possess knowledge and skills for sustainability. MMU and The Union MMU, along with 14 other FE and HE institutions, have piloted a new NUS-led accreditation mark called Responsible Futures. It aims to assess how well an institution embeds the principles of social responsibility and environmental sustainability into the formal and informal curriculum.

Dr John Hindley, Head of Environmental Strategy at MMU, said: “Our own research shows that 60% of our students think that ‘gaining skills and knowledge to understand key global sustainability issues’ are enhancing their employability prospects. Our latest drive is to create degree courses which are strong on sustainability issues and we are pleased to have been recognised as a model for other universities in so-called ‘education for sustainable development’.”

Reducing carbon emissions

In a bid to reduce carbon emissions, the University MMU is working in partnership with Geothermal Engineering Ltd and Arup on an energy project which aims to demonstrate the first deep geothermal single well in the UK at the Cheshire campus, in Crewe.

Geothermal Engineering Ltd (GEL) were successful with a bid to the Innovative Heat Network fund managed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). This successful bid builds on the groundbreaking field trial already undertaken by GEL in Cornwall last year. The project hopes to demonstrate how a cluster of buildings can be heated by geothermal energy using a single 2km well system. It is estimated that the project could reduce the gas use of the academic buildings by 37% – reducing carbon and saving money. If successful, the project will make the Cheshire Campus a showcase for green technologies – having a number of low carbon technologies on site already including solar panels, solar heating and rainwater harvesting.

Dr Ryan Law, Managing Director of Geothermal Engineering Ltd, said: “This represents a very exciting opportunity for all parties involved to deliver and connect the first deep geothermal single well heat system in the UK and would be a watershed for the industry. We look forward to working with MMU, DECC and ARUP on this project.”

This isn’t the only work the University is doing to reduce carbon emissions on a wider scale. In 2012, MMU founded the Greater Manchester Hydrogen Partnership (GMHP). The Partnership brings together a network of hydrogen fuel cell stakeholders across the region to improve the capacity of Greater Manchester to address the challenges of grid demand, energy security and ability to create lower carbon economies. As part of a transition to cleaner energy, a prospective project to install a fuel cell-powered combined heat and power unit within MMU’s estate is underway, alongside a range of outreach, infrastructure, research and hydrogen fuel cell deployment opportunities.

MMU’s cutting-edge green credentials have also seen the University become part of a €24 million European “Lighthouse Cities Project” called Triangulum to drive Smart City development in Manchester. As part of the Triangulum consortium, which successfully beat bids from the likes of London and Milan, Manchester has teamed up with Eindhoven in the Netherlands, and the Norwegian city of Stavanger, with each conurbation creating low carbon districts as part of an EU scheme to drive Smart City development.

As part of Corridor Manchester and alongside technology partner Siemens, MMU will be part of a series of energy, ICT and transport projects planned for The Corridor along Oxford Road, transforming the area into a Smart City innovation zone, the first district of its kind in the UK to bring together new ways of thinking around energy, transport and ICT.

Would your university like to take part in our CAMPUS SPOTLIGHT series? Email the editor: rebecca.paddick@wildfirecomms.co.uk for details on how to feature in University Business. 

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