Promising progress at the EAUC Ireland regional group meeting

Programme Manager Matthew Lawson reflects on the efforts by colleges and universities in Northern and Southern Ireland to group together to persue common environmental goals.

On the 2nd March I attended the second meeting of the EAUC Ireland Regional Group. The University’s Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability had been invited to share Edinburgh’s approach on these issues with the group. Attendees were largely those with operational responsibility for energy and sustainability within their university or college. Academics, technical researchers and senior management were also in attendance.

The meeting was hosted by South West College in Enniskillen at the Centre for Renewable Energy & Sustainable Technologies. The centre undertakes research and assists businesses on renewable energy. During the day the group were provided with a tour around the centre which highlighted the technologies used to construct and power the passive pavilion, as well as their current research work on researching biomass products. The centre’s passive pavilion is one of the most sustainable buildings in the UK and Ireland, meeting the Passive House, BREEAM Excellent and Carbon Neutral building standards. It is also one of the most beautiful modern buildings I have ever visited, you can understand why this is such an inspiring place to both work and study.

CREST building

Over the course of the day the discussion focused on sustainable initiatives and issues currently being considered by universities and colleges. South West College presented on their plans for the new proposed Erne Campus development, including their vision of incorporating sustainable design principles and technologies. The building would utilise natural light and would no doubt be an inspiring place for staff and students to teach and learn in. Attendees with experience of sustainable estate development provided advice based on their own previous experience. The sharing of best practice and lessons learned between attendees is one of the most valuable aspects of the EAUC Regional Meetings.

After an opportunity to talk with fellow attendees over lunch I delivered a presentation on the University’s approach to social responsibility and sustainability, as well as discussing the opportunities and challenges the department has encountered. I also updated attendees on the ongoing review of the University’s climate strategy. Following my presentation there was an interesting discussion on embedding sustainability into the curriculum, forecasting future carbon emissions and approaches used to engage both academic and operational colleagues, as well as students.

EAUC Ireland main photo

Damian Dalton, Senior Lecturer at University College Dublin and chair of the meeting, provided a fascinating presentation on the opportunities available to organisations to achieve energy efficiencies for data centres and servers. Learning and teaching is going through a digital transformation with the development of online distance learning and cloud based technologies. Damian’s presentation effectively highlighted how sustainable ICT should be a priority for educational institutions.

Towards the end of the meeting the group discussed potential plans for the EAUC Ireland Regional Group. The enthusiasm of attendees from both universities and colleges was clearly evident as they discussed plans for future events and awareness campaigns. It’s of course early days for the group, but there is no doubt that the momentum form members will ensure the group goes from strength to strength.

It was a pleasure to attend the second meeting of the EAUC Ireland Regional Group, opportunities to share best practice and lessons learned are always very valuable. The trick is to ensure that we incorporate best practice from the group into our own initiatives at Edinburgh.

EAUC Ireland group photo