Towards the attainment of a sustainable, healthy and living campus

The sustainability related content on the Estate Services website is currently being updated (May 2023)

University College Dublin aspires to be an exemplar institution in the field of Energy Management. We recognise that as both a public sector organisation and a third level institution we have a significant role to play in the global effort to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change.

UCD Estate Services has been active in energy management for over 20 years, with the field growing in importance from an organisational, national and international perspective over this time. UCD has been very successful in reducing consumption, costs and emissions over this period, and continues to deliver; currently being on track towards our 2030 energy targets.

UCD was the first University in Ireland to install an energy monitoring and BMS (Building Management System) in its buildings. This smart technology began as a student project and has grown into an extensive system that remotely monitors and controls heating, lighting and ventilations systems across the campus. A dedicated unit, the Energy Unit, was founded in 2003 with the sole purpose of conserving energy, reducing costs and finding more sustainable energy sources, whilst simultaneously maintaining or improving comfort levels in the buildings.

“e3 is a collaborative arrangement where the Universities share information, experience, resources and lessons learned in the field of energy management. ”

UCD was a founding member of the award winning e3 bureau, a collaborative energy management bureau involving UCD, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University and Dublin Institute of Technology. e3 is a collaborative arrangement where the Universities share information, experience, resources and lessons learned in the field of energy management.

The purpose of energy management rests on four inter-related key areas; building comfort and use, managing costs, reducing consumption and minimising emissions.

Providing buildings and facilities that meet the requirements of the users in terms of temperature, ventilation and humidity levels, as well as lighting level and quality, is a key function of Estate Services and the Energy Unit. The management of energy costs is also an important consideration, as heating and electricity costs are a considerable operational expense and are likely to increase from current levels. Achieving value for money in the sourcing of energy, as well as the effective management of UCD plant and equipment helps to keep the University energy bill to a minimum. Reducing consumption through the efficient management of plant and equipment, and through energy efficiency projects, also reduces the over-all cost of energy, but importantly reduces the emissions linked to this consumption.

As a public sector organisation, and most importantly, a University, UCD seeks to actively tackle global challenges such as climate change, not only through research and teaching activities but through the management of the University Estate. UCD has signed up to the SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland), public sector partnership programme and has committed to being an exemplar in energy management practices.

UCD achieved ISO50001 certification in 2016. This is an international standard in energy management that requires a rigorous approach to identifying key energy users, tracking and reporting energy use, identifying causes of variances, planning and implementing energy efficiency projects and seeking to continuously improve systems and process in order to cut wastage.

“The greenest energy is the energy that isn’t used.”

That the greenest energy is the one that has not been used is and adage that the UCD energy unit firmly believes in, and the primary focus of the Energy Management System (EnMs) is to improve efficiency and eliminate energy wastage. Renewables are becoming of ever increasing significance in helping reduce the world’s carbon emissions. UCD recognises this potential and has invested in a renewable biomass boiler (wood pellets) that produces heat for the University district heating system, heat pumps, solar PV (photovoltaics) to produce renewable electricity and solar thermal panels that produce hot water.

Transitioning to a Low Carbon Estate

The first Strategic Theme outlined in Rising to the Future is “Creating a Sustainable Global Society” which includes a commitment to set ambitious targets and to report annually against these targets with respect to sustainability.

The recently published Climate Action Plan set targets for greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency as follows:
Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 51% in 2030 from a baseline of 2016-2018
Increase the improvement in energy efficiency in the public sector from the 33% target in 2020 to 50% by 2030
Put in place a Climate Action Roadmap by the end of 2022

For UCD, a reduction in carbon dioxide associated with running buildings will be the primary target. This equates to a reduction of approx. 12,782 tonnes of CO2 by 2030.
The national electricity grid has ambitious targets relating to the growth of renewable generation which will result in a significant reduction in the carbon emissions associated with electricity “imported” to the campus from the grid (indirect emissions). In light of this “free lift” from national grid decarbonisation, public sector have also been assigned “Direct” emissions targets, which for UCD predominantly relates to thermal energy or natural gas consumption used for heating buildings and water.
UCD’s target for direct (thermal) emissions is 5,347 tonnes of CO2 which represents a 51% reduction from the average of 2016-2018 baseline of 10,800 tonnes of thermal CO2. This will require significant investment in shifting from fossil fuel heat generation (natural gas) to renewable and electricity generation.

A number of key measures to deliver effective and efficient carbon dioxide savings have been identified as outlined below.
Investment in energy efficiency measures will continue, to reduce unnecessary energy usage and associated carbon dioxide emissions. Refurbishment of existing buildings identified within the timeframe of the Estates Strategy will deliver significant carbon savings as both fabric and plant are upgraded to required standards.
New buildings will be developed to Near-Zero Energy Building standard, a BER of A and Energy Efficient Design (EED) techniques will be incorporated. UCD further commits that any building refurbishments or deep retrofit projects will set a minimum BER target of BER B or better.
The University will build expertise and capabilities in relation to low-carbon and renewable technologies across the Estate, including reporting and communication tools.

Through effective management systems, staff and student involvement and technological solutions, we can deliver the 2030 targets and make UCD a greener, more sustainable campus.

Public Sector Energy Efficiency Targets

By 2030, every public sector organisation is required to achieve: 51% reduction in energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 51% reduction in thermal (heating and transport) related greenhouse gas emissions 50% improvement in energy efficiencyAchieving the 2030 targets will require a renewed effort and long-term strategic planning to secure resources and investment.

What can you do to help UCD reach its 2030 targets and cut emissions?

The impact that the UCD Community can have on energy usage in the University should not be understated. Controls, equipment and other technological mechanisms are just part of the solution. The UCD Community ultimately determines the total energy usage of the campus each day. Simple things like switching off lights and projectors can have a telling effect on consumption.

Take part in the 100kWh (kilowatt hours) challenge. The challenge is for each staff and student in the University to try to reduce electricity consumption by just 100kWh each year. The University community is composed of over 30,000 staff and students, so 100kWh per person would amount to over 3,000,000kWh

How you can save 100kWh!

Through very small changes in the way in which you go about your daily life, you can relatively easily save 100kWh over a year, both in the University and at home. Some people will have more opportunity depending on the area in which they work, others by less, but all will contribute to reduced carbon emissions and help the make the University a more sustainable place to learn, live and work.

– A desktop PC running idle on a screensaver uses 550kWh over a year just on evenings and weekends. Switching off desktop PC each evening for 10 weeks would amount to 100kWh.

– Enable power saver options on your PC or laptop: these are generally in the Control Panel, select System and Security and then Power Options; select “Power Saver”. You can also change the settings to adjust when the screen shuts down and computer sleeps.

– When boiling the kettle only fill with as much water as needed. We could each save 40kWh per year by just doing this one simple measures alone. (of course it depends on how much tea or coffee you drink! – this is based on 3 cups a day!)

– Leaving office and classroom lights off when leaving the room is also a source of wastage. Please switch off when you are leaving, it is very easy for the next person to switch on again!

– “Vampire Power” or standby power is when a piece of equipment is turned off but still using electricity. The amount of power used is generally somewhere between 5-10% of the power being used when fully on. When you consider all the screens, laptops, monitors, TVs and other appliances across the University all using electricity at night and weekends you can understand how it quickly adds up. So please, switch off your computer or laptop and screen at the socket each evening.