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The Business Schools Creating An Eco Impact On Campus

As global attention turns to the race to reach net zero by 2050 – and avert the worst of the environmental damage human beings are causing – business schools and universities are uniquely placed to harness their knowledge and influence to make a difference.

Accordingly, business schools around the world have been incorporating sustainability into the very fabric of the organisation – from the operations, to the culture and, notably, the architecture – all so that students view sustainable actions as daily practices. Employing sustainable initiatives on campus to become more environmentally friendly has been a key part of this.

For many, this involves utilising spaces they already have in new and innovative ways, including hedgehog highways, Mediterranean biomes and beehives on campus roofs.

Sustainable Buildings and Campuses

BI Norwegian Business School based in Oslo, is making use of their campus roof – which is the size of 2.7 soccer pitches – in an unconventional way: by installing beehives. Tommy Wensås, the school’s beekeeper and head of Technical Department, started the initiative in 2017 and has cared for the bees ever since.

The beehives are not just a gimmick, but represent something more. Wensås says, “the symbolic effect of the bees is huge. They have attracted a lot of attention and are a source of great interest for employees, students, and others.

While roofs appear to be a popular choice for implementing sustainability-focused projects, they’re not the only part of architecture that can be used in such a way. Ireland’s Trinity Business School, a state-of-the-art development located in Dublin, has the largest living wall in the city. The 70m living wall is covered in seven different species carefully selected to suit its north-eastern location. It holds 96 plants per square meter, contributing to a greater level of biodiversity.

According to Natalie Wilmot, Deputy Dean at the School of Management at the University of Bradford, the University’s grounds are a source of pride and delight for staff and students alike. The Bright Building at Bradford, is one of the most sustainable buildings in Higher Education. The monolithic hemp and timber frame building utilises a range of recycled materials and incorporates a variety of renewable energy technologies. The campus also has a hedgehog highway which has been awarded the ‘Hedgehog Friendly Bronze Status’.  

At Columbia Business School’s Manhattanville campus, buildings are also of great importance. Another state-of-the-art construction, the design of buildings on campus protects against unwanted glare and solar heat gain, while the cooling and heating systems utilise chilled beam technology for reduced energy consumption and low velocity underfloor distribution. The materials with high percentages of recycled content, wood sourced from sustainably managed forests, and high efficiency plumbing fixtures all contribute to a more sustainable campus environment.

Sustainable Energy Creation

While these schools are incorporating the world above ground to support sustainability and the environment, some are even going below ground. The Global Hub that Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management opened four years ago in Evanston is designed to be highly energy efficient through the use of a geothermal energy field. This field is located under the adjacent football practice field and taps into the Earth’s constant temperature to provide highly efficient heating and cooling for the building.

Installation of this system involved drilling 48 double wells, 430 feet deep into the ground. The geothermal system provides 50% of the building’s heating and cooling requirements with the other half provided by a central utility plant if necessary.

At EHL Hospitality Business School in Switzerland, meanwhile, the new campus is equipped with 44 geothermal probes and an innovative wastewater heat recovery system which covers 80% of the university’s heating needs. The campus is also equipped with solar panels covering an area equivalent to three Olympic-sized swimming pools.

At Nazarbayev University (NU) in Kazakhstan, they go as far as having a renewable energy test site on campus. The test site contains on-grid and off-grid renewable energy systems, passive houses and solar collectors. The university also plans to install solar collectors on 20 faculty houses on campus, which will reduce the housing gas consumption by 30%.

Living Laboratories

While business schools often have leading academics in the carbon reduction space and as a result some of the most interesting on-the-ground projects happening right on campus. One of the most notable initiatives is at Nazarbayev University (NU) which has a Sustainability Living Lab (SLL).

Gulzhan Yermekova, Head of Sustainability Office at Nazarbayev University says “The lab serves as a living laboratory for students and faculty. So far, the SLL has supported around 30 projects, ranging from upcycling of plastic and glass waste to a Mediterranean biome on campus. As well as developing hydrophobic films for solar panels and establishing a green observatory.”

Sustainable Goals and Offsetting Carbon Emissions

As we know, business Schools are complex institutions, so while many may know the energy usage of their buildings, for example, measuring travel of faculty– or the carbon used in research projects – is often less well understood.

To combat this, at the University of Bradford School of Management, there has been extensive adoption of digital technology for meetings and communications, internationalisation activities and training which has reduced travel and printing needs. This is in line with their current university-wide sustainability programme and prior ‘Ecoversity’ agenda which addresses the wide-ranging challenges of climate change and has a UK net target of zero by 2050.

BI Norwegian Business School have chosen a strategic focus on SDG -13 ‘Climate Action’ as part of their sustainable goals.

According to Harald Øverby, Provost for Student Learning at BI “We aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase the use of renewable energy, reduce use of plastic and focus on a circular waste management. Our four campuses have also been Eco-Lighthouse, which is the most widely used certificate for Norwegian businesses that wish to document their environmental efforts and show their dedication and commitment to corporate social responsibility.”

At EHL, along with their corporate social responsibility goals, the new campus encourages sustainable living. And through various initiatives and vast efforts they have already offset 58% of the carbon emissions from construction works and expects to fully offset carbon emissions by next year.

So, whether it’s a hedgehog highway, or implementing a renewable energy test site, there are numerous sustainable initiatives that can be implemented by a business school to help the campus operate in a more environmentally-friendly way. This will bring many benefits, not only to the planet and net zero goals, but also to the next generation of students.

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