Supporting higher education providers on the journey to net zero

Stephen Crowther, Key Account Director
Home Insights Supporting higher education providers on the journey to net zero

As we increase our support for higher education providers in our journey to net zero, Stephen Crowther, Key Account Director, shares his insight on the industry and how to move forward.

Over 140 UK universities have backed commitments set out by Universities UK to reduce Scope 1 & 2 emissions by 78% by 2035. This supports the Government’s Net Zero by 2050 target, and shows how committed higher education providers are in reducing their environmental impact and their forward-thinking approach to sustainability.

Now is more important than ever for education providers to set out a strategy for the decades in front of them. Each education provider will be looking to tackle their estate in a variety of ways and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. This can create challenges for individual institutions but it’s our responsibility to outline a clear strategy in the journey to net zero.”

Sustainability now and for the future

Although working with higher education providers on their net zero journeys is still relatively new to us, we have a wealth of retrofit experience we can draw upon. As a business, we have our own sustainability targets which we are working towards, so we understand first hand what it means to set and implement net zero initiatives. We have set both near-term and long-term science-based targets to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions that have been validated by the Science Based Target Initiative. Our net zero target for 2045 requires us to reduce absolute Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by 90% from a 2019 base year.

We have been delivering retrofit projects in domestic and non-domestic buildings for a number of years, and our retrofit background means we have already laid the foundations for our processes, applications and our supply chain. This stands us in good stead for making the step into education. Retrofit is set to become a huge part of reality for education providers; as we’ve seen across multiple sectors, retrofitting buildings is often far more logical (and cost effective) than new build solutions and will allow education providers to maintain the exteriors they’re recognised for while updating the fabric and carbon footprint of each building. Some university buildings in the UK date back to the 14th century, so we must take the approach to balance history with the future to achieve the best outcomes.

A diversified approach

A diversified approach

Higher education providers naturally have vast, diverse asset portfolios that require careful management, particularly when considering such an overhaul. We’re able to help our customers in the research, planning and implementation of sustainable solutions to ensure they will see return on their investment and enable them to achieve their net zero targets.

Each customer is also understandably at a different stage in their journey and faces different challenges. We have found that those who are able to assess their estate as a whole and make long-term plans and investments are the ones that are likely to reap the most rewards. However, this is not without its challenges. Taking stock of such a wide range of data requires commitment. Universities have to consider all buildings in their portfolios, from lecture theatres to labs and accommodation, with many of these registered as listed or UNESCO heritage sites as well as being multi-use and mixed occupancy.

We appreciate the challenges universities are up against when it comes to deciding on a pathway to net zero. Drawing upon our experience in the built environment we can help to navigate each challenge, looking at each asset individually and the estate as a whole to generate the best outcome.

Partnering for success

For us, it’s important to work closely with our customers to be able to provide the best solutions. We work in partnership with our education customers to understand their individual requirements and then map the  steps to create change for a cleaner, greener and safer world for future generations. We have already established relationships with a number of education providers across the UK and we’re now looking to increase our impact and share our knowledge wider.