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Sustainable institutions

Hazel Bedson, Marketing & Operations Director of Service Works Global (SWG) Sustainable Education Estates, discusses the ways in which CAFM and BIM are supporting sustainable practices at educational institutions all around the world

The last few years have seen a surge in awareness and support around environmental change. COP26 last year was a huge global event, and since then we have all felt the impact of climate change on a local level through the summer heatwaves in the UK.

A BCG report found that respondents from numerous countries are more environmentally aware since the outset of the pandemic, with the younger generations leading the charge.

As more members of Generation Z enter adulthood, their environmental concerns need to be listened to in order for businesses of all kinds to win over their support. This means businesses need a strong ESG strategy to attract talent and need to demonstrate sustainability to appeal to customers.


Universities and colleges are one of the first real official public bodies that young people encounter, and they are not afraid to speak their minds about them. A study by the Times Higher Education found that a university’s sustainability policy and work is more important than location for mobile students.

Additionally, a study by the National Union of Students found that over 60 per cent of students want to learn more about sustainability at university, with 87 per cent of all students agreeing that their university should take sustainability more seriously.

It’s generally accepted that the built environment accounts for around 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, and that this is set to double by 2050.

Higher education estates make up a significant percentage of the built environment. There are around 164 universities and higher education institutions in the UK alone. Many of these establishments have numerous sites and sometimes hundreds of buildings. The University of Edinburgh, for example, has 458 buildings across seven sites.

Not only does the higher education sector have a great opportunity to make a positive difference but having a clear sustainability policy and delivering may be critical for continuing to attract students in a highly competitive market.


There are many ways that FM can provide greater sustainable practices to an education estate. The use of technology is particularly important, primarily through the use of computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) systems.

As already noted, school and university campuses host a range of large buildings with various needs. For example, accommodation buildings that require specialist health and safety, science labs that may need specific alarms and ventilation, and all buildings that need specialist fire doors.

These buildings all have different energy uses, too. Some may only be in operation during core work hours ofnine to five; others, like libraries, may be in use 24 hours every day of the week. All of these factors require different sets of paperwork, staff time, management and reporting, which can be hugely time-consuming and not very cost-effective.

CAFM helps to solve these demands by streamlining all asset, building and maintenance activities. By using a CAFM system, universities are able to control the scheduling and allocation of maintenance for the many assets located across the educational campus, ensuring all areas are always available for students. Similarly, when managing the estate as a whole, intelligent data supplied by an effective CAFM system is able to help a university to identify any underperforming or inefficient assets and replace them with those that will improve energy and reduce emissions.

Integration with third-party tools, such as sensors or BMS (Building Management Systems) enable data from multiple sources to be captured and analysed to inform actionable insights around sustainability. For example, input from sensors enable FM teams to turn off lights and heating in buildings that are unoccupied in order to save energy and minimise their carbon output.

Efficiencies gained can offer a rapid ROI, while changes made for sustainability reasons can be shared with students and employees alike.

Universities are renowned for sharing best practice and it always pays to learn from what others are doing around the world. Here are a couple of case studies that show how our CAFM solution, QFM, and other technology has supported higher education estates around the world.

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