Building and designing a sustainable library service

The keynote was delivered by Fraser Muir, Director of Information Services and Learning Resource Centre at Queen Margaret University (QMU), who opened the conference with a presentation about the campus and its sustainable strategy. He began the talk by asking us some questions to respond to using TurningPoint voting systems. Interestingly, 45% of the attendees were currently involved in a new building project, and 63% of participants were actively discussing sustainability at their institutions. I was amazed at how many of us are involved in new builds, especially when you take into account the current financial issues many institutions are suffering.

Fraser went on to discuss project re:locate, which was established to enable design and planning for the QMU campus in Musselburgh which opened in 2007. The aspirations of the project were to design a campus which was welcoming, inspiring, had a community focus, learning centred, flexible, extendable, integrated, distinctive identity, and sustainable (saving money and environment too). One of the aims of the campus is to be the most sustainable in the UK; “to develop a sustainable community for learning and life”. Achieving this level of sustainability included consideration of many different areas within the campus, including:

  • thermal insulation
  • natural ventilation and thermal mass (absorbs heat in the day and releases it at night)
  • lighting control systems
  • biodiversity and sustainable drainage (they even have a family of swans on campus)
  • low carbon footprint (including consideration about how people travel to the campus)
  • sustainable IT
  • efficient use of space

The Learning Resource Centre forms the bedrock of the academic building on campus, and is the only area to have increased in size following the merge of the two previous campuses (currently 4500m². The LRCs brief was to be the heart of the campus, technology-rich, environmentally friendly, and provide flexible learning space for students. There was a clear design emphasis on flexibility in the LRC, with flexible learning spaces and open areas for differing study purposes evident throughout the building. The study space ratio to FTE is 1:4 (half with IT access); in order to utilise space efficiently study spaces are merged with social spaces, terraces are utilised for PC access, and use of laptops turn classrooms/study rooms into an IT lab. 43% of the shelving is compact shelving to improve space effiency of the stock within the LRC. The ground floor is separated into a secure area (with the book stock etc.) and a non-secure area (incorporating the social PC areas and canteen).You can see loads of photos of the LRC at the library Flickr account.

Other initiatives to promote sustainability include reuse and recycling of out-of-date books with a local book donors agreement, and the use of canvas LRC bags (see below) which help reduce the use of carrier bags and also act as a source of income (£2 each).

QMU canvas bags

QMU canvas bags

Another major issue is the use of IT; “IT strategy employed by QMU is absolutely fundamental to the overall sustainable strategy”. Fraser presented a scary statistic; UK HE and FE utilise nearly 1,470,000 computers and will have ICT related bills of around £116m this year. QMU have adopted thin client technology for the majority of their machines (still have some PCs which act as a backup). They estimate that they should get 5-6 years from each thin client and each also uses less electricity which combine to save a lot of money. The use of thin client also enables remote working, which can help reduce unnecessary transport and therefore the carbon footprint.

QMU have received an excellent rating on both CEEQUAL and BREEAM (where they were the highest scoring UK university project), and scored 17 ecopoints from Envest (lower scores are better; 22 points for an ecobuilding, typical building is 40 points). Their energy certificate score is B+ (with the only suggestions for improvements being solar power and wind turbines which QMU ruled out as they were too expensive).

Just earlier this week (I knew there was a reason for not finishing this blog post until now!) they won a Green Gown award for the Green ICT category, and were highly commended in the Sustainable Construction category.

You can read more about the sustainability at QMU on the sustainability section of their website.

presentation about the campus and its sustainable strategy. He began the talk by asking us some questions to respond to using TurningPoint voting systems. Interestingly, 45% of the attendees were currently involved in a new building project, and 63% of participants were actively discussing sustainability at their institutions.