NUI Galway has launched a new sustainability initiative which aims to make the campus one of the greenest, smartest, healthiest and community-focused in the world.
The initiative is based on a Learn Live Lead approach where NUI Galway focuses on its core strength in teaching and research to learn about sustainability, analyses building performance and campus operations to live more sustainability, and connects to broader society to lead in translating sustainability to the wider community.
As part of the initiative, NUI Galway becomes the first university in Ireland to join the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) Sustainable Energy Communities Network. This ambitious initiative also includes a ‘Battle of the Buildings’ energy-efficiency competition and a new website to showcase sustainability teaching and research and to engage the campus community.
Commenting at the launch, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Registrar and Deputy President of NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to be the first university in Ireland to sign up for this initiative. After my appointment in early 2014 as Registrar and Deputy President, I initiated a university-wide discussion on the future of NUI Galway among senior academics and senior administrators. One of the key themes identified in this process was to move the University towards the greenest, smartest, healthiest and community-focused third-level campus in Ireland with an ambition to be internationally recognised by 2025 for its culture and practice of sustainability. ”.
Professor Ó Dochartaigh continued: “The SEAI Sustainable Energy Communities Network is timely and fits very well with strategic developments in NUI Galway. For example, the NUI Galway Strategic Plan 2015-2020, Vision 2020 embraces the ideas of ‘creating a sustainable campus where all resources are used efficiently and where facilities are managed and services consolidated as efficiently as possible’ and recognises the need for ‘external engagement with an openness to partnership and a spirit of collaboration to define the NUI Galway approach’.”
The Sustainable Energy Communities Network embraces an inclusive and community approach, across all sectors, to develop a sustainable energy system. To achieve this goal, SECs aim to be energy efficient, to use renewable energy where feasible and to develop decentralised energy supplies. By joining the SEC Network, NUI Galway commits to knowledge sharing with SEC members and to developing and implementing energy-saving initiatives. Membership of the SEC network offers many benefits to the University and its community partners, including the potential for energy and financial savings, community building through a partnership approach, and developing renewable energy technologies.
Battle of the Buildings
The first major project of the University’s sustainability initiative is the ‘Battle of the Buildings’, inspired by a similar competition run by the US Environmental Protection Agency. It aims to make students, academics and staff more aware of the energy use of campus buildings and to encourage energy-efficient behaviour through collegial competition. The first departments to battle off are engineering, nursing and business, all located in the north of the Newcastle campus. Details of daily energy use of buildings will be available online as well as on dashboards throughout campus. An energy training and awareness campaign will encourage students, academics and staff to make informed decisions about energy use that will reduce energy costs.
Professor Colin Brown, Director of the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said: “We have made great progress over the last 10 years in introducing clean and green systems into our buildings and thanks to the leadership of the Buildings Office we are becoming much more efficient in how we use energy and what types of energies we use. This launch recognises that to progress a sustainable energy system, a collaborative and concerted campus and community-wide commitment to energy efficiency and sustainable energy use is needed.”
Professor Brown continued: “NUI Galway recognises the role of a sustainable third-level campus in the transition towards a sustainable community encompassing environment health, economy, community and culture. Sustainable energy use is a central pillar of campus energy policy and is the foundation for NUI Galway to become recognised internationally as one of the greenest, smartest and healthiest campuses.”
Phelim Kelly, President of the Students’ Union, added: “This is a fantastic initiative where we can see a real partnership between students, staff and indeed the external community. I would like to thank everyone involved in their efforts to make people more consciously aware of the environment. It is brilliant to see staff and students collaborate with an aim to see a healthier, green campus and in doing so giving the University and wider communities an insight into the value of sustainable technologies.”
NUI Galway has also launched a new website to collect all existing research, teaching, outreach and management relating to sustainability. This website includes dedicated pages for each sustainability project, a feedback mechanism for ideas for campus improvements, and links to teaching and research centres. New data platforms will be integrated in the website demonstrate key performance indicators relating to campus performance, such as energy use in each building. For more details on sustainability at NUI Galway, visit: www.nuigalway.ie/sustainability