UK’s first True Zero Carbon student campus given green light

The UK's first True Zero Carbon accredited student accommodation sites looks set to open later this year, after the University of Hertfordshire secured a BREEAM Outstanding rating for a new £120m campus building.

Scheduled to be completed in time for the new academic year in September, the project – which includes 3,000 bed spaces – utilises a new biomass fuelled energy centre as it strives towards achieving a True Zero Carbon accreditation – which accounts for both regulated energy and unregulated energy.

The University’s director of estates & hospitality Andrew May said: “We’re very proud of our fantastic new facility and our BREEAM Outstanding achievement and are looking forward to being accredited as a True Zero carbon project.

“Our estates strategy is a key part of the University corporate strategy and is in response to the macro changes in higher education, delivering real benefits to our students and staff and materially enhancing our campus experience. This is why we are investing in both our academic estate and our residential estate.”                                                

Construction consultancy Turner & Townsend acted as the Independent Certifier during construction, and aided the delivery of the scheme, which saw a range of three to six storey timber frame accommodation blocks constructed across the Hertfordshire campus. Investors backing the project include Meridiam, Bouygues, Derwent Housing Association and Legal & General.

The BREEAM Outstanding rating was given, in large, due to the use of the biomass energy centre, which incorporated a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system at the heart of the development. The system will provide energy for a “significant portion” of the campus.

Turner & Townsend’s director Gareth Morgan said: “This has been a long but exciting journey from the initial aspirations of the University’s “Vision” in 2010 to being on the cusp of handing over the final phase. The uncompromising nature of student accommodation projects demands completion for the start of the academic year otherwise the market is gone. We are delighted that the first two phases have successfully seen the occupation by students for the start of term and the final phase is on programme to replicate this success.”

University challenge

With universities and colleges in England falling further behind on collective 2020 carbon reduction targets, individual institutes are turning to sustainability to lower emissions and enhance their reputations.

Fresh off of its inaugural Carbon Week, Aston University’s sustainability manager Andrew Bryers told edie that increased efforts to lower energy consumption on campus had created a behavioural shift among staff and students.

Last year, the University of Cambridge signed an agreement with Cambridge Water to support the UK’s largest water recycling system at the University’s North West Cambridge Development site.

Matt Mace

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