Huge University of London collaboration writes the book on sustainability

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The University of London appreciates how vital the higher education sector is in combatting climate change.

By U2B Staff 

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“The world is on a precipice,” is opening statement of the University of London’s new Zero Carbon Estates Handbook. And they’re not wrong.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has given us 12 years to act on climate change before the Earth enters “catastrophic” consequences. The keep warming below the 1.5 degrees Celsius – the point of no return – would require “rapid and far-reaching” changes across all sectors of society.

When it says “all”, it means all; it lists land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities – and education is no different.

The UK’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 is going to be a national challenge in which all sectors must engage. London is taking it a step further and has committed to being a zero carbon city by that time.

Universities are a big part of many cities lives and ecosystems, and play a huge role in UK society. To achieve this goal, the sector is going to have to be part of the solution.


The University of London appreciates how vital the higher education sector is in combatting climate change. Not only is it the source of much of the research into the topic, but as a huge sector and contributor to the problem itself, it needs to develop its own response to climate change.

Leading the charge to turn UK higher education green, University of London brought together over 200 people from across society, including higher education, local government, architecture, and design to layout a masterplan for change.

The result is The University of London’s Zero Carbon Estates Handbook.

This 44-page document aims to provide UK and Ireland’s higher education professionals the tools to combat the problem and consider how they can influence their universities on the drive toward zero carbon.

The Zero Carbon Handbook focuses on how universities can drive down their carbon emissions through the built environment.

Its main focus is on how universities can drive down their carbon emissions through the built environment.

According to the report, the higher education sector in the UK emits 1.95 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent from its estates and operations. The sector also has over 1.9 million students enrolled, giving it a huge opportunity to influence how the next generation views and acts of carbon reduction.

“[We have a] huge potential to influence the generations that will be steering businesses, governments and organisations towards the global 2050 targets,” the report reads.

“Setting a strong example now, in the way universities approach reaching zero carbon has the potential to ripple out into society.”

The report offers guidelines to universities on how to manage their estates in a sustainable way. It details the zero carbon interventions that are recommended for five building types, including refurbishments and new builds.


It also lays out in detail the University of London’s own zero carbon strategy in the hope that other institutions will follow their example and incorporate some of the features into their own plans.

Rather than just makes suggestions of what to do, it gives universities the tools to make it happen, providing a full list of zero carbon services. It lists the details and contact information of all the architects, consultants and companies that consulted in the development of the handbook.

And possibly the most valuable aspect of the report is the excel calculator that helps universities make a business case for going zero carbon.

While the document is aimed at universities and has a particular focus on UL itself, the university hopes building owners, developers, architects and designers across all industries will find it useful. They also encourage people to build on the document, add to the expertise and keep evolving to get the best possible practices in place, across all sectors. After all, we’re all in this together.