We spoke with Rachel Ward and Zanda Pipira from London Metropolitan University about their exceptional carbon savings
Conversation with London Met’s Sustainability Team
London Metropolitan University have been a top performer in the Brite Green carbon performance league tables for the last few years. The University has already achieved a reduction of more than 50%, well ahead of the sector target.
Brite Green’s Managing Partner met up with Sustainability Manager Rachel Ward and Sustainability Assistant Zanda Pipira to discuss their carbon journey.
DC: You’ve done so well over the last few years. Where did you start?
RW: When I first started at London Met 5 years ago, energy data was all over the place. We were paying for meters that didn’t exist and there was no-one looking at energy at all. The CRC raised the profile of energy management at the University and that was when I was brought in.
In the beginning, we focussed on getting the simple stuff done right; assessing bills and recovering costs from the energy suppliers. We still use a bureau service, and although it doesn’t usually pick up large savings it does give us peace of mind that our billing is right.
We’ve done a lot to improve data quality and have installed automatic metering across the estate. No system is perfect and so we do still collect monthly manual reading and billing data to ensure we have a robust data set and keep evidence.
We use this data to focus our energy reduction programmes on the areas of biggest impact, but we still don’t have granular data in all areas. This is something we’re working on and are installing more sub-meters as part of our programme.
DC: How do you find your projects?
RW: We find projects in lots of ways. I came from an energy consultancy background, and so we’ve carried out detailed energy audits and thermal imaging surveys. The energy data has highlighted hotspots which we’ve focussed on, meaning we’ve been able to target the biggest reduction opportunities first.
Our maintenance team is really on the ball and as part of their day to day role, they are always on the lookout for opportunities to improve energy performance. We’ve analysed the maintenance programme and ensured we maximise the energy performance from planned upgrades but also consider energy efficiency in reactive works too. We’ve found the SKA fit-out standard really helpful and because the standard is quantifiable, actual performance has generally matched up with our expectations.
ZP Bringing everyone on the journey is so important. We’ve had great buy-in from colleagues – we would never have been able to achieve so much without that.
RW That’s absolutely right. As we’re based in the same team as the maintenance team, getting joined-up on energy has been relatively straightforward, but we’ve also had a lot of success in getting other departments on board too. The IT team have been particularly proactive and they’ve delivered a number of successful projects. Some of the best have been automatic PC shut-down software, follow-me printing and consolidating the fleet of nearly 1000 desk-top printers with central MFDs.
DC: Which of your projects have been most effective?
RW: We know that consolidating our estate has definitely helped us drive reductions, but the Brite Green analysis shows that we’ve also driven energy use per m2 too.
We’ve done a lot of work with our Building Management System (BMS), and carefully programme services to match the academic timetable. This has been extremely effective and also allows us to monitor utilisation rates of our space. Unfortunately, we’re not able to automatically test whether booked spaces are always used, so we employ students to audit occupancy.
We’re looking to work with the local authority to develop a local district heating system. This will be great for our emissions, but also will help us to support nearby council housing which is electrically heated. These kinds of projects are really important. We’ve found that by looking beyond the university walls we’ve been able to identify some really exciting and innovative projects that help us contribute to the wider climate change agenda. This is also true of what we teach and the values we communicate to our students.
DC: How do you assess the business case for projects?
RW: At London Met, our business case isn’t just focussed on financial payback. The university doesn’t stipulate specific payback period criteria and although that’s an important factor, we also look at other benefits. These include things like new learning opportunities, comfort and student experience.
We’ve had a lot of success in the last few years which we’re really pleased has been recognised in a number of awards. This external recognition has helped us demonstrate the senior management team the reputation benefits of good energy and carbon management.
When I first started I didn’t have much of a capital budget and used savings from BMS projects to start a projects fund. Over time we have demonstrated the effectiveness of investing in carbon management, and we now have a dedicated carbon management capital budget and we make use of external funding from Salix and the Revolving Green Fund. Our ability to leverage this external funding has meant we’ve been able to maximise the energy opportunities from the maintenance programmes too and haven’t missed so many opportunities as we’ve upgraded our estate.
With the higher education sector becoming more competitive we’ve also looked at how we can use projects to provide students with better learning outcomes and experiences. For example, the new solar array is used in the science teaching and we’ve launched a new masters course on Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability which the estates team will be involved in the teaching. We also used money from a staff development award to fund a bee hive project which has been very popular with the students.
The volunteering and graduate internship programmes we run also help to give students practical experience which is vital when they are applying for graduate roles.
DC: So what’s next?
RW: We definitely want to get better data, especially within some of our larger buildings. These buildings would also benefit from zoned heating controls and there are still lots of opportunities for building fabric improvements.
The local heat network is also an exciting opportunity and with our new Masters course coming online, we’ll also be looking more and more at a university-wide approach to sustainability and carbon. The changes to ISO 14001 are likely to drive new initiatives, especially as we explore the risks and opportunities from environmental issues for us.