Utrecht University is working towards being a campus where sustainability is seen, felt and experienced by everyone. Building and renovating in circular fashion, increasing biodiversity on the campus, reducing energy consumption and obtaining energy from renewable sources are ways in which the university is working towards being a sustainable campus.
Utrecht University itself aims to be climate neutral by 2030. The main categories of CO2 emissions are natural gas consumption, energy generation, commuting, agriculture and air travel.
Most of the CO2 emissions produced by the university are in energy consumption and building development. The university is en route to achieving an energy-generating, circular, functional and healthy building portfolio. The area managed by the university will be car-free and climate-adaptive and will offer more space for biodiversity. The university's energy transition is in full swing: significant energy reduction, being CO2-neutral in 2030 and natural gas-free in 2040 are its goals, as described in the energy strategy.
Biodiversity is an important pillar in the sustainability of the university and is explicitly included in the Strategic Plan 2020-2025. The biodiversity strategy is three-pronged and focuses on reducing the footprint, increasing biodiversity in each own area and creating more support for biodiversity.
By 2021, sixteen buildings in the university's real estate portfolio were BREEAM-NL* certified. This makes Utrecht University the first university campus in the world to map the sustainability of its own real estate portfolio on this scale.
Last year, the university's energy demand decreased by 18% compared to the base year 2017. However, consumption has risen slightly compared to 2020. The decreasing energy demand is partly due to energy-saving measures that have been realised this year, such as the further insulation of buildings, installation of LED lighting and the installation of energy-efficient pumps.
In 2021, the Area Strategy was adopted, setting the course for the development of the university's own area for the coming years. Previous research has shown that biodiversity restoration is an important theme in this respect, which is why a recovery plan was adopted for this as well in 2021.
What happened in 2021?
Working together on biodiversity
To increase biodiversity in its own area, in 2021 the university worked closely with partners in the Utrecht Science Park, surrounding municipalities, the water board, the province of Utrecht, Staatsbosbeheer and Utrechts Landschap. The university also involved students and staff in various biodiversity projects and Living Labs.
In 2021, the university established a Biodiversity Council. The council comprises four scientists who provide the university with solicited and unsolicited advice on challenging issues in the field of biodiversity.
Research bureau Dactylus analysed the flora of the Utrecht Science Park in 2021 and drew up a map. The map paints a picture of the current situation of the flora. Based on the findings, the agency drew up a recovery plan for the Utrecht Science Park.
In the autumn of 2021 Utrecht University started planting 6,000 indigenous trees and shrubs in the meadows of the Utrecht Science Park. This green strip forms a four hundred meter long new 'wood bank', which contributes to the biodiversity in the area. It also connects the campus to the Amelisweerd forest again. Thanks to the ecological function of the wooded bank, new habitats, walking routes and flight paths are being created in this area for various animal species.
Every year the university organises Nature Work Day for its employees. Under the guidance of Landschap Erfgoed Utrecht, over 40 volunteers put hand to spade et cetera in 2021 to restore the biodiversity of the Utrecht Science Park.
In 2021, the number of ecologically managed roadsides increased significantly. In 2022, this number will expand to all verges and lawns managed by the university, bringing the total to 34 hectares of ecologically managed verges and lawns.
By better retaining heat in winter and coolness in summer, the university can save a lot of energy. In 2021, the Maintenance Team insulated hot water pipe fittings in various university buildings, installed high-efficiency glass, insulated roofs, fitted buildings with LED lighting and installed energy-efficient system pumps in renovated buildings. These measures may seem small, but together they can have a big impact. Interested to read more about what a building can save with LED lighting? Then read the green story 'The textbook example of energy saving'.
Besides its own initiative to certify sixteen existing of its buildings with BREEAM-NL* certification, the university is also drawing up energy labels for the office buildings it owns. All buildings must achieve at least label C by 2023. In 2021, three buildings will be provided with energy labels.
Sustainable local energy
The university took several measures to increase the share of locally generated renewable energy in 2021. For example, the PV installation on the Vening Meinesz building was expanded to 396 solar panels, and 842 solar panels were fitted at the new circular multistorey car park P-Olympos in the past year. In total, the university now has 7,388 solar panels. In addition, the heat and cold storage system in the Utrecht Science Park has been expanded and the David de Wied building is now fully connected to it. The university now generates 6% of its own energy demand locally from renewable sources.
What will Utrecht University do in 2022?
- The university will install PV/solar panels on roofs in the city centre and in the Utrecht Science Park (USP) and develop solar carports for car parks near the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.
- The university is realising a test field with innovative solar panels. This experiment will be set up as a living lab to investigate how agriculture (sheep), sustainable energy generation and the enhancement of biodiversity can be combined on a single field.
- The feasibility study into the realisation of windmills on the campus will be resumed this year.
- The university is mapping the water quality of the water bodies in the USP so that it can be improved where necessary and possible.
- In line with the Area Strategy, the university is writing a concrete policy plan outlining measures and frameworks for dealing with greenery, water, climate adaptation and infrastructure.
- The university will start the design process for the redevelopment of Heidelberglaan to provide more space for water and greenery.
- Ambitions for future-proof buildings will be further implemented and realised in the major real estate projects, such as the Van Unnik building, the Kruyt building, the new Veterinary Medicine building, the Inner City Teaching Centre and the Circular Pavilion.
- The university will implement sustainability measures in ongoing construction and periodic and day-to-day maintenance projects of existing buildings using the BREEAM In-Use methodology.
- In the coming years, several buildings will be dismantled or redeveloped. Based on material inventories and analyses, the reuse potential will be mapped out so that (building) materials can be reused in the best possible way.
*BREEAM-NL certification means that a building is assessed for integral sustainability on the basis of a baseline measurement according to BREEAM-NL standards. Measurable objectives have been developed to increase sustainability using the baseline measurement as a basis. To assess progress, the BREEAM certification process is repeated every three years.
This chapter was based on the factsheets campus, buildings and energy, provided by the departments V&C and FSC.