Sustainability on campus

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Get involved

We seek to positively improve sustainability in the learning environment across our campuses, through responsible estates management, partnership working and public engagement. We also take opportunities to use our university sites to support learning for sustainability and use the campus as a living laboratory in the delivery of courses and research. We recognise that reducing environmental impact is best achieved through long term planning and we adhere to building regulations on environmental practices.

Our buildings

Sustainability features can be found on all three of our campuses:

Essex Business School

The Essex Business School building in Colchester is the UK's first zero-carbon business school building and houses our Accounting, Finance and Management and Marketing groups as well as over 2,000 students and staff.

It has been estimated that the design of the building reduces emissions by 18% as a result of solar panels, making use of natural light, heat circulation.

The central courtyard is open to the sky and forms a water garden, collecting roof surface rainwater, which is in turn used to irrigate the winter garden planting.

The building has been orientated to make maximum benefit of solar energy, both through passive heat gains and PV energy.

The 500sqm solar array offsets 47.9 tonnes of CO2 annually generating enough electrical energy to offset over 20% of the site's carbon emissions.

New buildings and refurbishment

At the University of Essex we believe in responsible construction and refurbishment.

All our new build and refurbishment projects are assessed for sustainability performance and impacts, with BREEAM ‘very good’ as the minimum rating expected for major building projects.

Any new building must incorporate in 15% renewables, this is increased where funding allows.

We have a preference to invest in FSC certified furniture that complies with our ethical purchasing commitments.

For more information please see the Refurbishment of Estates case study (.pdf)

Solar panels

Installing solar photovoltaic panels (PV) across our eligible roofs has already proved to be a cost-effective approach to reducing our reliance on energy imports. Panels have already been installed on many of our roofs, including The Albert Sloman Library and Sports Arena, enabling the University to cover 5% of its electricity needs. In the next three years, we plan to install solar photovoltaics on the remaining eligible roofs to meet an additional 10% of our electricity requirements.

Energy efficiency and infrastructure projects

Project Purpose and Benefits  Status  Energy Savings kWh pa   Carbon Savings (TCO2e) pa
Adjustments to heating/cooling temperatures and timings  The University have adopted and aims to maintain a comfortable temperature set point (as set out in the Energy Management Policy) during the building’s predominant occupancy hours, to provide a suitable environment for its occupants and to maximise energy reduction, cost savings and our commitment to being net zero scope1 and 2 carbon emissions by 2035. Phase one complete with changes made to all controls where currently possible. Phase two will be determined in line with relevant future projects.  3,483,447 kWh  655
Sub-metering Sub-metering of individual building will allow us to monitor utility usage and take remedial actions for wastage. Detailed audits completed.  2,500,000 kWh and 9,000m3 of water  509
Smart TRV trial and roll out TRV stands for Thermostatic Radiator Valve. Smart TRVs allow for room-by-room control of radiators, to help avoid heating empty spaces.  Trial has been completed. Trial has revealed savings of approximately 30% on energy use for heating.  8,210 kWh  2
Lighting upgrades to LED   Upgrades to replace traditional lighting to LED bulbs across three campuses to reduce energy use by 40%. LED lighting has been upgraded across two sites in Colchester and three sites in Southend.
 514,259 kWh  107
Occupancy sensors Aims to link Smart TRVs. This monitors room occupancy to determine whether the heating should be fully on or not. Trial of sensors implemented in selected rooms. Data will be reviewed to understand the benefit and value in a wider roll out.   To be confirmed  To be confirmed
Building Management System (BMS) upgrades Current SERCK BMS systems will be replaced with TREND systems
in several locations, allowing greater control of energy management.
 Audit work is in progress.  666,667 kWh  122
Comfort cooling sensors Presence Infrared (PIR) sensors installed to AC units to switch off/on heating based on room occupancy. 38 units have been installed in Constable Building (Kaplan).  86,656 kWh  18
Temperature monitoring sensors (Rab Butler Building) Sensors installed on each level to accurately measure the temperature within the building.  These sensors provide real-time data to Building Management Systems (BMS) to ensure occupant comfort whilst maintaining efficient control.  4,318 kWh  1
Tap flow restrictors  Devices that limit the flow of water from a tap.  Audit work is in progress to identify the flow rate.  To be confirmed  To be confirmed
Shower head replacements  Installation of eco shower heads with a reduced flow rate of 8 litres per minute. 1200 units have been installed in South Courts.
 28,290 m3 of water  40
Window upgrades to 1960's estate (single glazed)  Single glazed windows will be upgraded to double glazed. In development of an agreed design standard for window upgrades.  To be confirmed To be confirmed
Solar PV installation  This project contributes to onsite renewable energy generation at
Colchester Campus.

Panels now installed on:




Library lower level


Ivor Crewe

Network Building

 559,600 kWh  116
Roof replacements and insulation To identify areas where roofing needs replacement or further insulation to help reduce 20% of energy wastage. 

Phase one: 1100m2 of roofing on the 1960s central campus buildings underway (August 2023, due for completion 13 October 2023).

Phase two: plans are in development. 

 265,615 kWh  49
Student Union (SU) shop fridge replacements  Installation of doors on fridges to reduce energy wastage. Completed July 2023.  100,000 kWh  21
AC unit compressor controls  Retrofit solution on AC units to reduce the compressor speed.  Audit work in progress.  To be confirmed To be confirmed
Building Decarbonisation Plan  To identify University buildings for heat decarbonisation.  £181k in funding awarded in Summer 2023 through the Salix Low Carbon Skills Fund towards the costs of development of the Decarbonisation Plan.   To be confirmed To be confirmed
Hand dryer replacements  To identify the energy saving opportunities through measuring the current wattage and drying time.  Audit work to be commissioned.  To be confirmed To be confirmed
 HVAC Upgrades  HVAC systems stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. This project will identify existing HVAC system conditions and energy and carbon saving options.  Audit work to be commissioned.  404,000 kWh  84

Getting involved on campus

We have a variety of initiatives across our campuses to inform and enable our students, staff and visitors to make changes that have a positive impact on the local environment.

We are constantly exploring ways that we can be more sustainable on campus and can provide funding for revolutionary new sustainability projects, so if you have an idea that you would like to share please contact the Sustainability Team.

Little Choices Big Changes

There are a range of ways that students. staff and visitors can get involved to make changes that have a positive impact on the local environment. From basic actions you can take, to projects to further embed sustainability across the University, our community has the power to make a difference. 

We are constantly exploring ways to improve sustainability on campus and can provide funding for revolutionary new sustainability projects, so if you have an idea that you would like to share please contact the Sustainability Team.

Below we've provided some simple advice for changing how you study, live or work on our campuses to help to reduce your environmental impact. You can find more information and ideas on our blogs page

Energy Saving

  • Save energy by switching off what's not in use (including chargers, screens and lights).
  • Boiling the kettle? Only fill with what you need. 
  • Got a flickering light or broken window? Report faults to the Estates team.
  • To manage energy use, thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) will be turned down in offices and seminar rooms ahead of the Christmas break. You're welcome to turn these up if you need to, but please remember to turn them down again when you leave the room. 

Explore the grounds

  • We encourage students and staff to explore the Green Flag Award-winning grounds of the Colchester campus and discover the wildlife and habitats. 
  • Today, the campus comprises 18 major habitats, with many notable species among its 2,800 trees. Our three artificial lakes provide homes for carp, cormorants, and kingfishers, while 220 acres of grounds support much more fauna, flora, and fungi. Find out more about Wivenhoe Park.
  • We have a Green Thumbs student society who work throughout the year on our campus allotment at our Colchester campus. The aim is to grow their own produce and reap the benefits of being outside. For up to date news on what the society is working on at the allotment head to their Instagram page.

Free drinking water


  • We provide free access to drinking water to all our staff and students.
  • To find a water fountain near you, go to 'FindYourWay' and type in 'water' in the search bar. All places with water fountains will appear, and you will be able to choose the one closest to you. 
  • You can also ask any Essex Food outlets to fill your water bottle for free. 
  • All tap water in our campus accommodation is safe and ready to drink. 


  • You can find water fountains in various locations around the campus: in every floor of the Gateway and Cliff Town building or in the University Square common room. 


  • You can ask any SU location to fill your water bottle for free: the SU Lounge, the Library or the Corbett Theatre

Saving water

  • Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. 
  • Turn off the tap when you have finished using it.
  • Got a dripping tap? report to the Estates team


  • Read our guidance on sustainable communications and messaging (.pdf) – from what you're saying, to how you're saying it.
  • We have a range of Moodle modules for staff to learn about embedding sustainability at the University.
  • New staff members complete the 'How We Work at Essex' induction on Moodle which includes information about the Sustainability Sub Strategy, sustainability policies and sustainability on campus.
  • The Sustainability team attends induction events for new staff members to reinforce understanding of sustainability on campus.
  • Unwanted items can be advertised on the staff small-ads email list

Students and the Students' Union

  • During Welcome Week, we are out and about on campus as part of student induction. Visit our stall and find out how to live sustainably on campus.
  • We offer a wide range of taught modules that focus on environmental impact, as well as our Summer School in Sustainable Practice.
  • There are opportunities for students to get funding for a sustainability project, for more information visit our Crowdfunding page.
  • Studio X, home to our Essex Startups team, is located at our Colchester Campus and offers students and graduates who are interested in starting their own business, support throughout their entrepreneurial journey. As a student at Essex you can learn the skills needed to be successful in business and use Studio X as a base to help your start-up to grow. We are greatly interested in businesses with a purpose and those with a sustainable focus, we are hoping to offer a programme in the next academic year 22/23 that focuses on creating sustainable businesses for the future.

Sustainable transport

  • Dr Bike service in term time on Colchester campus.
  • The annual season First UoE bus pass is available for discounted travel to our Colchester campus and within the Colchester area. 
  • The annual season Arriva bus pass is available for discounted travel to our Southend campus within the Southend area. 
  • We run a Cyclescheme for staff, deducting the cost of a new bike and equipment from salary payments enabling a saving up to 40%.
  • We have twelve electric vehicle charging points available at our Colchester campus.

Waste reduction, reuse and recycling

  • Take a reusable cup to Essex Food outlets on campus and get a discount when you buy a hot drink.
  • Think before you print: if you do need to print, change the settings to double-sided (duplex) and black and white printing. Avoid printing altogether and send documents digitally.
  • Use our A to Z of waste and recycling to make sure you're putting things in the right places. 
  • Students moving out of accommodation can donate unwanted items to British Heart Foundation using the bags delivered to your room. Visit the moving out page to find out more. At Colchester you can donate to the collection banks all year round.
  • The SU regularly collect donations for the Colchester Foodbank - keep an eye out for details of future collections. In December 2021, 615.6kg were donated - you can make it even more next time!
  • Recycle your pumpkin in one of our dedicated bins in the week after Halloween, you can find bins outside William Morris Tower, Bertrand Russell Tower and Brightlingsea Court.

UoE Sustainability on social media:

Wivenhoe Park in the summer
Get in touch
Sustainability team
Telephone: 01206 872950