The U.K. is home to some of the world’s oldest — and most prestigious — universities.  And while these may be centers of excellence for learning, many institutions’ buildings were built centuries ago and are in need of refurbishment or, in some instances, total replacement.

It’s a problem that’s not restricted to higher education.  Across the world, many of the universities and colleges have a large number of aging buildings.  Those buildings are not as energy efficient as newly designed facilities and are difficult to remodel or retrofit.

In the U.K, some of the Victorian-era housing can be drafty and costly to maintain.  Office buildings, even though constructed about 20 years ago, are deemed high consumers of energy.

In the south of England, one place of learning is attempting to boost its green credentials with a brand new development.

Earlier this week, the construction firm Osborne “formally handed over” the West Downs Centre to the University of Winchester.  A handover refers to a contractor formally passing a development or facility over to their client.

The new building boasts a number of sustainable features designed to boost its green credentials.  These include a combined heat and power system; solar photovoltaic panels; rainwater recycling; and what the university described as “smart building management.”

Its development was supported by green financing through a £30 million ($37.26 million) loan from Triodos Bank, which offers what it describes as “sustainable financial products.”

The university has previously described the West Downs Centre as being “on target” for an “excellent” BREEAM rating.  BREEAM is a “sustainability assessment method” from the Building Research Establishment that covers infrastructure, master planning projects and buildings.  For additional information about BREEM, visit  BREEM and LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) are systems that rate the overall design and construction of a building for efficient use of energy and other natural resources.

It’s hoped that teaching at the building could begin in this year, assuming that the current pandemic issues are resolved.  An official opening and inauguration are slated for next year.

Around the world, buildings designed for the education sector are being developed with sustainability in mind.

In March of this year, it was announced that the firm Veidekke had been tasked by the city of Oslo to build an energy-efficient, solar-paneled school.

At the time Veidekke said the Voldsløkka secondary school would have solar panels on its facades and roof.  In addition, machinery used on the building site would run on “fossil-free fuel.”

In the U.K., a number of universities are also turning to renewable sources of energy.  These include the University of Sussex, which has installed over 3,000 solar panels at its campus in a £1.5 million initiative.

Elsewhere, the University of Nottingham has said its “recent new builds” include things such as biomass boilers, green roofs and passive design.

Building Management System (BMS) or Building Information Management systems (BIM), are being implemented to monitor and control building energy consumption and the types of devises that utilize energy throughout the day.  Facility management professionals are able to balance the electrical loads caused by lighting, air conditioning/heating, computer use and even people to optimize consumption.   According to the university officials, its BMS “controls 95% of our campus buildings, ensuring intelligent control of the building systems to make sure there’s no energy waste.”

Other examples include University College Cork, in Ireland, which said it reduced total energy use by over 20% between 2008 and 2018. The 2018/19 academic year saw the university undertake 22 different energy efficiency projects, including the installation of 42 kilowatts of solar power.

Look for terms or phrases that include IoT, IoE, smart village, wearable technology and other intelligent systems as we move into the next generation of building design.


Written by Anmar Frangoul