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Sustainability at University College LondonOctober 2018

The implementation of Soft Landings for the UCL (University College London) Estates: case study of a great success, written by Ben Stubbs and David Stevens of UCL.

With around 230 buildings occupied by 50,000 staff and students, we face significant challenges and opportunities in relation to the development and efficient operation of our estate. We are currently in year four of a major ten year capital development programme which involves major refurbishments, upgrades to infrastructure, and new construction. This includes a completely new campus at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – UCL East.

Meanwhile, as colleagues prepare for the management of new facilities, our strategic maintenance programme ensures business as usual across the existing campus. However, efficiency improvements to our heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting systems cannot be fully optimised without effective planning and integration with the wider programme.

The adoption of Soft Landings

With the above in mind, the effective adoption of Soft Landings has long been on the agenda for UCL Estates. It is crucial that we are well-positioned to make the most of facilities which promise substantial operational cost savings as well as improved environments for study and research. Programme delivery remains on track and we’re determined to learn the lessons of completed projects through post-implementation reviews as part of an ongoing process of continuous improvement.

Soft Landings is also crucial in ensuring that our ambitious sustainability requirements are fully implemented, maximising the benefits of initiatives to reduce our environmental impacts, whilst optimising the health and wellbeing of building users. Recognised assessment methods like BREEAM and Ska help provide tried and tested frameworks for best practice and are widely understood by the industry; however, without proper planning and training, there is no guarantee that anticipated benefits will be maintained throughout the operational phases.

Adapting it to our own requirements

This is where our own layer of separate requirements comes in. Our Sustainable Building Standard sets out specific targets for energy and carbon reduction, optimised resource use, and healthy, productive spaces, all within the context of demonstrable life cycle value (specifically going wider than life cycle cost savings). We are determined to provide a clear business case for all our environmental initiatives, avoiding the dreaded “eco-bling” approach! This requires processes and technology to ensure we are able to measure, monitor, report and improve performance. The drive for environmental best practice is also reflected in the rising expectations of our staff and students and we’re determined to plan ahead, anticipating regulatory obligations and demonstrating leadership within the sector.

Our new projects transition team has been established to help coordinate this process and set the standards for efficient design, effective delivery and seamless transition into operation. The team consists of engineers, a clerk of works, a moves and a decant manager, a standardisation manager, a senior sustainability manager and a risk, health and safety manager. They collectively provide delivery and governance oversight across all UCL construction projects to ensure that agreed stakeholder expectations are effectively delivered.

It’s a team effort

This dedicated team also works hand in hand with the engineering, sustainability, fabric and facilities experts located within UCL Estates to further support this culture shift and embed this collaborative approach to capital delivery and operational transition. Our aim is to develop sector-leading expertise on project transition and integration and, as part of this, UCL is keen to share professional experience and learning with other institutions in order to improve quality and Soft Landings practices. Sustainable growth of the UCL estate is vital to facilitate increased high-quality research, to accommodate more students, and to deliver more world-class teaching in an environment with efficiency, innovation and wellbeing at its core. Embedding a strategic approach to Soft Landings is a key factor in this process.

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