Safe education for Covid helps add £ 1million to campus gas bill

Rising gas prices and opening windows to mitigate the risk of transmission of Covid will cost a Russell Group university an additional £ 1million this year, a senior director of fields said.

Andy Nolan, Director of Development and Sustainability at the University of Nottingham, said Times Higher EducationTHE Campus Live event in which his institution expected a significant increase in its utility bill of £ 13million per year despite significant efforts to reduce campus emissions by making properties more fuel efficient energy.

‘That’s an additional £ million that could be spent on labs or student sports resources,’ said Mr Nolan, who explained that new guidelines to improve ventilation during undergraduate education were also to add 2,000 tonnes of carbon added to Nottingham’s annual emissions. .

These additional costs and emissions were inevitable, however, given the new complexities posed by in-person teaching in winter as Covid continued to circulate, Mr Nolan said.

“This is no excuse – it’s just the reality,” he explained, adding that the university had also spent around £ 6million on the Covid-proof Nottingham campus.

The additional costs imposed by the pandemic and rising gas prices – which have more than quadrupled in the past 12 months, according to Bloomberg – have underscored the importance for students and staff to do their part to reduce emissions there. where they could, Mr. Nolan said.

“I go through our buildings on Friday night to see if the lights have been turned off, and they often haven’t,” he said.

The conference also heard complaints from other property managers who said academics were insisting their offices be “toasty” from 7 a.m. Monday through Friday, although they “only come two to three. hours per week”.

Keeping university libraries open 24 hours a day or until late at night – a practice introduced at many institutions as a result of pressure from students – was also very inefficient given the costs of heating, said Gillian Brown, head of the university. energy at the University of Glasgow.

His establishment now kept the heating low on certain levels of its 17-story library, open from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.

“When we looked at the occupancy, we found that between midnight and 2 a.m. there were on average only 40 people,” Ms. Brown said.

She also explained that the absence of staff and students during the pandemic had actually increased heating bills in many buildings in Glasgow, rather than reducing them, as the people and electrical appliances they used were clearing them off. heat that helped warm buildings, which could not be left unheated to “mold”.

If universities were serious about reducing emissions, they had to consider getting rid of some buildings, rather than just trying to renovate existing buildings with insulation, heat pumps or other saving methods or devices. of energy, added Ms. Brown, who criticized the “bigger is better” mentality of college towns.

“We have 330 buildings in Glasgow, and it’s almost like we are announcing that fact, saying the bigger the better,” she said, adding that her university had succeeded in reducing the footprint of its area of ​​500,000 square meters over the past year, which had led to more intensive use of buildings.

For energy savings in universities, “space is really the last frontier,” Ms. Brown added.

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