MSLS Students make Presentation to BTH Board on 'Walking the Talk'

By Tim Nichols BTH Länken

On February 15th, the BTH board of governors listened to Annie Nolan and me present the business case for BTH to take steps towards becoming a more sustainable campus. The presentation served as a culmination of 5ooo+ hours of research undertaken by the MSLS class and covered five main areas: procurement; transportation; energy and water management; physical learning spaces; and the research and education environment. In addition to the presentation, a small group of MSLS students, selected by the class as representatives, working in conjunction with the MSLS staff, compiled a 25-page document detailing the first steps BTH can take in moving towards sustainability. The results were nothing short of impressive, and the presentation was extremely well received, sending encouraging signals to the class.

The MSLS class undertook the project in an effort to practice what we preach. While BTH has taken some steps to be greener, the class realized the potential for more and therefore spent three days together brainstorming all the possibilities available to BTH focusing on the aforementioned five areas. Our goal was to help BTH, the home of our course, take steps in the right direction toward sustainability.

In many areas, the class was fortunate to have members who had just completed two-month long research projects on subjects closely aligned with the topics. Most groups tapped this knowledge, in effect, keeping the ball rolling. For procurement, the students realized that the current policy has few requirements for staff in the area of environmental responsibility. Additionally, the staff who issue calls for tender number around 500, which tends to slow things down. The group recommended sustainability workshops for the staff members to convey reasons and methods for a sustainable procurement policy and more centralized structure with perhaps 10 sustainability officers to help save time and money.

Transportation initiatives were a more delicate subject due to the connection people feel to their automobiles. The campus currently has a large portion of space allocated for car use. Additionally, there are few incentives advocating sustainable transportation. The class recommended the implementation of a sustainable transport plan that included a salary bonus system for teachers and improvement and development of bicycle infrastructure. York University implemented a similar transport plan to reduce single-occupancy travel with great success.

As for energy and water management, research found a myriad of waste reduction opportunities available for the campus. Nearly 60% of the water usage on campus goes to the toilets, and lights are frequently left on overnight. The class recommended the installation of an energy management system (which works for both water and electricity consumption) as a means of accurately measuring the consumption of utilities. With this knowledge, precise strategies for education and reduction can begin. These strategies will decrease and maintain lower energy and water bills. In addition, they recommended taking advantage of the great Swedish labeling system to purchase the most energy efficient equipment.

The physical learning aspect presents a unique opportunity as BTH is currently working with an architect (who was also at the meeting presenting "green building" options to the board) to design a new building to be constructed over the next two years. The Swedish education system encourages group work, however classroom structure, in its traditional sense, does not encourage participation or conversation. The inclusion of more circular classrooms and use of natural lighting, as recommended by the class, has been proven to promote more interactive education.

While most of the previous sections included educational aspects, the students promoted these concepts more explicitly in the final section. This included recommendations for the integration of sustainability into the various other educational programmes. With a common language, cross communication between departments would increase, further spreading the benefits associated with sustainability. Furthermore, the inclusion of all the stakeholders will empower the community, strengthening the foundation on which the new concept is built. Finally, in taking these steps towards sustainability, BTH will emerge as a leader in this field and be at the cutting edge of this movement.

The MSLS class put forth a strong case for creating a more sustainable campus. These steps will help BTH move towards its vision of being a leader in sustainable development in science and society. Finally, a good sign of the warm reception came with the first question from the board after the presentation. We were asked to discuss some of the ‘crazy' ideas we had to become more sustainable. To this we responded that we would start here and let the future classes develop the wind farms and urine collection system.

Congratulations to all students and staff involved in the process of preparing and presenting this report!

 


A copy of the complete report can be found here.


 

This article is included in the Spring 2008 edition of the Trunk & Branches. Download the full newsletter here.

 

 

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