Flicking the Switch: Reducing Campus Carbon Footprint during Lockdown

We have been working to ensure that the University’s energy consumption, carbon footprint and utility costs are kept to the absolute minimum during lockdown.

In response to the global pandemic, the University of Bristol took action to safeguard the community by closing all non-essential facilities and buildings on the 24th March, for an indeterminate period. The Sustainability Department and Hard Facilities Management (FM) have been working diligently to ensure that the University’s energy consumption, carbon footprint and utility costs are kept to the absolute minimum during lockdown. 

As expected, daytime energy consumption has dropped sharply across the campus and buildings are mostly running as they would be at ChristmasDay-to-day energy consumption peaks (the diurnal load), which normally occurs between 8 am – 6 pm, peaking at 1 pm, have been almost eliminated. This is a testimony to the dedication of staff, especially in STEMed buildings, in reducing discretionary consumption in the little time available before the majority of people started working from home. This includeactions such as switching-off lab equipment where feasible and we would like to thank everyone who took the time to implement energy-saving measures before leaving the lab. 

Despite significantly reducing daytime energy peaks, the baseload, a buildings minimum power consumption (but accounts for most of the energyremained roughly the same as during holidays or weekends. For compliance reasons, there is a large 24/7 baseload in STEMed buildings because some systems need to kept running such as ventilation for fume cupboards and maintaining temperatures and humidity within tight bounds 

The buildings do not need to be run at full throttle when they are not in use, however, reducing baseload is not as simple as flicking off a switch and shutting down buildings for a prolonged period had never been done before. To overcome this challenge, Sustainability and Hard FM have been liaising with the STEMed Schools to identify areas that could be ramped down or turned off. The most significant energy savings came from pinpointing spaces where heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) could be reduced. Estates have also taken the opportunity to evaluate buildings in their less-occupied or empty states and look at ways of improving the automation strategies that run these incredibly complex buildings to make themore responsive and reduce baseload consumption. These improvements will remain when the buildings re-open. 

Over the entire University, consumption across academic buildings has fallen by an average of 45%, and 15%-35% in STEMed buildings which we believe is huge achievement.  

When lockdown restrictions are eventually relaxed, the buildings can be brought back up to normal functionality at relatively short notice and the measures taken to reduce baseload consumption will stay in place, which is great triumph for sustainability during these unprecedented times.  

May 2020

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