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A sustainable philosophy

Volume 7 Number 3 March 14 - April 10 2011

Chris White (far left) and team with their 2010 Green Gown Award recognise the sustainability efforts and achievements of Universities across Australia. The University of Melbourne submitted an entry in the ‘Continuous Improvement – Institutional Change’ category which received a ‘Highly Commended’ award.
Chris White (far left) and team with their 2010 Green Gown Award recognise the sustainability efforts and achievements of Universities across Australia. The University of Melbourne submitted an entry in the ‘Continuous Improvement – Institutional Change’ category which received a ‘Highly Commended’ award.

One look at the University’s Parkville and other campuses demonstrates that sustainability in all its forms is being practised in the operations of Property and Campus Services. Now a philosophy of sustainability is forming the foundation for all of its activities. Shane Cahill reports.

For Chris White, Executive Director Property and Campus Services, “Sustainability at the University of Melbourne is evolving beyond an operational focus to a philosophy underpinning all that we do.

 “The University has a long-term commitment to reducing the environmental impact of our operations, while developing opportunities for students and staff to be informed and empowered as advocates for a more sustainable world.”

The University is developing its campuses to model more resilient and self-sufficient communities and has committed to a minimum 5-star Green Star Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) rating for all new buildings and 4-star Green Star for all major building upgrades. Melbourne also has recently become the first educational sponsor of the Green Building Council of Australia ‘Green Star Communities Project’ which will develop rating tools for sustainable communities.

“The growing importance of ‘Education for Sustainability’ is reflected in our graduate attributes, enabling graduates to become ‘active global citizens’ and to ‘be advocates for improving the sustainability of the environment’,” he says.

The University committed $3.5million from 2008 to 2010 to undertake energy efficiency projects.

“Energy reduction projects have focused on upgrades and standardisation of building automation systems and improvements to heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

“Lighting upgrades have included reconfigurations, installation of energy efficient fluorescents, LED installations and the application of voltage reduction units to further reduce energy consumption.

“Staff Awareness Programs have also contributed to energy reduction, through an Energy Management program for switching off lights, computers and other appliances when not in use and Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning local control being switched off after use at the end of the working day, in addition to other specific local initiatives.”

The University’s substantial natural resources at its campuses across Melbourne and rural Victoria are being identified for their environmental capacities.

“Professor Ian Johnstone and the research team from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have implemented two shallow geothermal test bores on the Parkville campus,” Mr White says .

“This direct-use geothermal system uses the ground within thirty metres below the surface as a heat source in winter and a sink in summer, which will heat and cool the weights room of the University’s Beaurepaire Sports Centre.

“An anemometer has been installed on Mt Major, the highest point on Dookie campus. Over the past twelve months, atmospheric conditions have been recorded to ascertain the site’s suitability for micro wind turbines which would generate emissions-free energy and further contribute to the University reducing its carbon footprint.“

The University has been prominent in its many responses to recent local disasters and the Christchurch earthquake.

“Creswick campus has been able to assist the local community during the floods over recent months, providing emergency accommodation relief for local residents experiencing direct impact on their homes and businesses,” he says.

Mr White says that the quantifiable progress made already provides a solid platform for future initiatives and proves that environmental improvements can be made by organisations and individuals within them if they are committed.

“By the end of 2010 the University reached the energy reduction target set by the University Council in 2007 to undertake efficiency projects which would generate annual energy savings equivalent to 20 per cent of 2006 consumption at Parkville campus.

“The University not only reduces its carbon emissions by reducing energy demand, but also through the purchase of Green Power from Cathedral Rocks wind farm in South Australia and abatements through the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target scheme.”

Other achievements include a net carbon emissions reduction of 43 per cent despite the University’s floor area increasing by 12 per cent over the past four years; from 2006 to 2010, the University’s usage of mains water reduced from 513 megalitres to 358 megalitres – a 30 per cent reduction.

“The University demonstrates its leadership position in sustainability not only through its achievements to date but also through its commitment to further ambitious targets for energy, waste and water reduction from 2011 to 2015: energy usage reduced by 33 per cent; net carbon emissions reduced by 50 per cent; water usage reduced by 20 per cent; waste diverted for recycling increased to 50 per cent; and maintaining 100 per cent emissions offset of vehicle fleet.”