Sustainability is at the core of Exeter College’s strategy, as one of Exeter’s four inter-linked values besides excellence, diversity and community. Thus, Exeter College has committed to playing its part in reducing the harmful effects of climate change and biodiversity loss.
We are already tracking our Scope 1 and 2 emissions and taking steps to reduce them. Thanks to the efforts of students, staff and Fellows, substantial reductions have been made and we are working hard to make further cuts. The complex process of calculating the College’s Scope 3 emissions is also under way. We are also currently developing a more detailed plan for achieving net zero carbon by strategically assessing our options while simultaneously working on more immediate wins.
The vast majority of the College’s direct emissions stem from the use of gas for heating hot water, primarily for use in heating and to provide hot running water. Thus, Exeter College is working on making existing boilers more efficient, bringing about significant reductions in gas usage. Furthermore, Exeter has begun a roll-out of smart thermostatic radiator valves in Stapledon Houses and Staircases 12 to 14, which allow the College to save gas by only heating occupied rooms.
In addition, Exeter College already has ground source heat pumps, an air source heat pump and solar thermal energy installed in Exeter House, substantially reducing the requirement for gas on this site. Similarly, Cohen Quad uses solar thermal energy to pre-heat water, reducing the load on the gas boiler system. The College is also assessing further options to decarbonise its heating.
The College commissioned a feasibility study to explore decarbonisation options at our Turl Street, Exeter House and Stapeldon House sites in 2021. The study was completed in August 2021 and highlighted various options for those sites. In early 2022 the College commenced the next stage and is now assessing the detailed upgrades needed to support our long-term transition to a decarbonised mechanical and electrical infrastructure. Key in this is a material first approach as improved insulation reduces our heating requirements thus making decarbonisation easier to achieve.
Improving the environmental performance of our buildings is integrated into every refurbishment project undertaken. The refurbishment of the Turl Street Lodge (completed in spring 2022) includes secondary glazing and improvements in the thermal insulation of the external walls. The refurbishment of the College Library (in progress and scheduled for completion in September 2023) includes a total overhaul of the lighting and heating infrastructure, including smart desk and building lighting, and Building Management System (BMS) operated roof light windows. A project to improve electricity consumption by replacing existing lighting with integrated corridor, emergency and motion activated fittings in Turl Street and Exeter House sites is nearly completed. We have installed smart thermostatic radiator valves in Stapeldon House and in early 2023 staircases 12, 13 and 14 became the first staircases at our Turl Street site to receive this upgrade. In 2019 we invested almost £200,000 to refurbish 230 windows across the College’s Turl Street site, significantly improving their insulation properties.
Exeter College’s electricity is certified renewable through our purchase of REGOs, meaning our Scope 2 emissions are zero. However, the College is also looking to reduce electricity use wherever possible and is currently assessing options for solar electricity generation on site, reducing our emissions further due to lower upstream Scope 3 emissions stemming from grid operation.
Besides our gas consumption, diesel is the only other Scope 1 emission of the College. Since the College’s diesel van is coming to the end of its life, the College aims to replace it with a leased electric van by 2024 at the latest. This van will be running on renewable electricity, thus fully decarbonising maintenance transport.
The College is already measuring its waste through its waste provider SELECT environmental services. No waste goes to landfill, with all our general waste being incinerated for electricity production. Furthermore, our food waste goes into an anaerobic digester, which produces biogas and soil enhancer.
The Green Impact Team is also working on reducing waste in College and ensuring that everything that can be recycled does get recycled.
Overall, the College is committed to reducing its emissions and has set up the governance structures for this (Green Impact Team, Sustainability Committee, Sustainability Officer), and is also working on biodiversity, investments, and food. Exeter is also regularly organising events and showcasing sustainability research linked to the College: Sustainability News.