As a technical university it is our prime responsibility to educate tomorrow’s leaders and to perform first class research for the challenges of the future society. Sustainable development is a prime challenge in this century, and the university’s performance will especially be reflected by the results in society of our education and research towards this end.
Increasing the sustainability performance of our campus, and refining support processes like procurement, are means to incorporate the real world opportunities, challenges and questions surrounding the sustainability transition, through the experience of students and staff. The campus then serves as a playground, or ‘living lab’ and as an example for society at large. Sustainable development requires an integral view on, and in depth knowledge of the things we use and the things we do. New research, education and collaboration opportunities appear when evaluating the interactions of the technologies we develop from the question how we minimize our ecological footprint.
In the first year of its existence, the Green Office especially focussed on strengthening the interaction between science and the TU Delft facility management and real estate (FMRE) developments, and improving the decision making processes, to incorporate sustainability inherently in the many campus projects. In the coming years, experiences will be translated in a working modus for the other TU Delft corporate support organizations, to connect longer term sustainability goals (under development), with trust in organization wide support and realistic actions for achieving this.
Important milestones, strengthening the TU Delft approach for sustainable development are:
Board directive to reduce the environmental load of campus energy supply (2014)
The executive board issued in 2014 the following 2020 goals for campus energy supply, from a 2005 baseline:
- 50% reduction of CO2 emissions
- 40% reduction in primary energy use
- 25% sustainable generation of the then used energy
Various projects have been launched to this end – some of them are listed below, and the TU Delft is well on track for achieving these goals.
Green Office establishment (2016)
The TUD Green Office (GO) has been operational since the 1st of January 2016. The GO board arrangement gives an inherent connection between science and the facility management and real estate (FMRE) department. One staff member is dedicated to support of the FMRE department (what to do when), and one on the translation of campus opportunities into new scientific programs and new international co-operations. The chairman has a focus on the university’s energy transition. The student members of the GO team provide support, and have their own agenda to involve students and staff, interconnect with other Green Offices and to launch new projects from ideas from the student community.
Enforcement of the sustainability focus of the Facility Management and Real Estate department
A new FMRE sustainability commission has been installed that determines the FMRE sustainability strategy. The commission is chaired by the FMRE director, and consists of the GO staff members, and responsible FMRE officials. The main function is to translate new insights, (science and education) opportunities in a manageable set of requirements for the execution of the many campus projects under FMRE responsibility.
To involve students, employees, researchers and professors in the process of establishing sustainability goals and pathways, The Green Office organised four themed co-creation sessions on waste, energy, circular economy in the built environment and food, where various stakeholders from the TU Delft were present. Here, together we thought about some of the concepts and challenges, and created new ideas to form a shared vision for the campus developments.
- TU Delft position in (inter)national rankings
SustainaBUL is a ranking of higher education institutions in the Netherlands, performed by Studenten voor Morgen. Institutions are judged on sustainability in their education, research and operations, based on a questionnaire completed by the university. TU Delft has taken part in this ranking for the last four years. The TU Delta featured an article with a commentary from Chris Hellinga on the results from 2016.
UI Greenmetric World University ranking 2015 (first submission)
The University of Indonesia Greenmetric World University ranking is a sustainability ranking among universities from countries all around the world. In 2015 the TU Delft participated for the first time together with 406 other universities, with the following results. The ranking for 2016 is currently in progress, so we’ll keep you posted when the results are announced.
- 34th (from 407 universities)
- Transport on the campus #1!
- Education #3
- Energy and Climate change #72*
* Vast improvement is ensured from a new contract with Eneco for the University’s electricity to be provided by Dutch Wind Energy as of 1-1-2017 and also with the development of a geothermal heat project in 2018/2019…
- Plans for the future
Reduce the CO2 emissions for campus energy supply to zero.
If we succeed in establishing a geothermal well (to be decided in 2017), in combination with the purchase of Dutch wind energy, the solar energy generation, and energy savings, our CO2 emissions will in 2020 have been reduced by up to 80%. What remains are solutions for the peak heat demands, that still need natural gas. Biomass (gasification), high temperature thermal storage, and/or the further introduction of (large scale) heat pumps are options that need further study. Depending on the 2017 developments, we expect that a CO2 neutral campus energy supply can be achieved around 2025.
Structurally broaden the sustainable campus development scope and international collaborations
Projects have been launched on sustainable procurement, waste treatment, food supply, ICT, circular economy and other ‘non-energy’ items, creating interaction between students, staff and facility departments, yielding a concrete ‘working space’. However, it is still an important question how we concentrate our efforts effectively on those items and where we can make the societal difference.
An important guideline for sustainable development are the 17 United Nations goals, addressing worldwide needs. It shows the comprehensiveness of our 21st century challenges and gives a framework for the input of technical universities.
Some leading universities have set goals for sustainable development, typically covering some 15 items. An example is the Harvard sustainability plan.
The TUD Green Office made appointments in 2016 with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, and the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH) to intensify cooperation, with a focus on connecting campus developments with academic agendas and thus meaningful societal impact. We expect to come up with concrete collaboration plans in 2017.
A TU-Delft long term sustainability plan will be established in dependence of the outcomes of this process.
Strengthen the involvement of staff and students
In the past years, quite a few new (Green Office) projects have been launched involving tens of scientists and some 100 students. The GO overarching role for around 20 Delft student communities working on sustainable development is getting its shape, but can be strengthened further. A main challenge is still to involve the TU Delft community at large in clearly visible achievements. Two important tracks in 2017 are a co-operation with the FMRE department to increase the sustainability of the food supply, also leading to “sustainable restaurant experiences”, and the establishment of student communities at faculty level, stimulating faculty exposure and faculty specific sustainable projects.