By Alex Green, on 7 July 2014
Anne Spira is studying for an MSc in Sustainable Urbanism at The Bartlett School of Planning. She recently attended the Greening Education Conference and wrote this summary of the event.
The Greening Education Conference brought together academics and researchers, scientists and policy-makers, technology companies and education providers working to find solutions for a greener future.
According to Tom Reynolds, coordinator of the Greening Education 2014 conference, there is no better instrument through which to lead by example than the part of the establishment young people have most contact with: education. Through their educational ethos, universities are able to nudge successive cohorts of students into being more sustainability conscious. Additionally, universities themselves have the great opportunity to green their business approach and buildings.
Overall, the conference sought to tackle a variety of questions to the issues of more sustainability-conscious behaviour and institutional change: how can discussion about greening universities be framed to trigger more interest among students and university staff? How can those active in the university’s greening initiatives be made to feel their voices count? How can universities develop effective carbon investment strategies that cover projects, from building retrofit to decentralised energy?
In line with these questions, two of the take-home messages of the conference with regard to behavioural and institutional change include:
- Taking a more inclusive approach to sustainability: to trigger sustainability-conscious behaviour change and to motivate students and staff to become part of this change, Louise Hazan from People & Planet suggests reframing of the discussion around sustainability. Currently, the logic of becoming a greener institution does not cut across the entire spectrum, but rather focuses on a very small area: the university’s operations. According to Hazan, more power needs to be given to the individual in coming up with ideas on how to tackle issues like climate change and environmental degradation in the individual’s every-day life.
- Taking advantage of new technologies and modeling software: for new buildings, 3D building information modeling (BIM) schemes like COBie, which provide all project and asset information, documentation and data electronically, will become mandatory in the UK by 2016. 3D BIM makes it possible to document knowledge about a facility’s spatial and physical aspects, as well as the costs across the building’s entire life cycle. Overall, this technology allows for more informed decisions regarding. For instance, the materials used and their embodied carbon, as well as the installment of more energy-efficient technology and better insulation to reduce the building’s long-term resource consumption and costs. For existing and old buildings, SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com presented some products, such as tap aerators or light controls. Tap aerators or light controls allow to cut energy and water consumption, and costs. At low instalment costs and short payback times, because of increasingly reduced resource consumption, these appliances are probably the most effective, cheapest and easiest solution for universities without lowering the comfort.
Overall, the conference offered some good solutions to institutions of higher education to lower their environmental and social impacts and again highlighted the imperative of education providers to tackle issues around climate change and environmental degradation. Amongst the attendees was a variety of academics, university building managers and consultants. I hope they took similar messages home from the conference!