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Sustainability & performance of operations (ISCN Principle 1)

  • Electricity

    UCT introduced some digital web-based metering in 2011, and in 2014 made the decision to roll out metering at a building level. This project has now been completed. In 2016 Properties and Services appointed external consultants to monitor usage data. This is in its infancy, but electrical energy-use reporting is available on the energy consumption page.

    Electrical equipment is continually being replaced with more efficient technologies as equipment reaches end-of-life, including the retrofitting of lighting with efficient fittings and air-conditioning chiller plants being replaced with higher-efficiency chillers. Air-conditioning plants have been on the maintenance plan since 2007, which has helped to optimise energy use. A planned maintenance schedule for fume hoods is also in place. The hope is that this will not only improve health and safety but also the energy use of these items of equipment.

    There have been some installations of solar water heaters to small and medium residences, while energy-efficient heat pumps, which are more suitable for morning peak demand, are installed in larger residences.

    UCT is investigating investments into more efficient equipment and renewable energy technologies to save operational cost and to demonstrate environmental responsibility.

    Although in its infancy, the benefits of using the living laboratory concept of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) sustainability group are evident. For example, the Department of Electrical Engineering has conducted research into photovoltaic panel installations on the roofs of some of the larger buildings on campus. The results were brought to the EMWG, which has resulted in the planning of feasibility scoping work. The first project will be limited to two buildings on upper campus. One of those buildings is the Jameson Hall, which, with 300 square metres available for panels, will produce 45 kW peak and 225 kWh per day. The 400 square metres available for panels on a second building will offer in the region of 114 kW peak and 187 MWh per annum. These two installations will have many benefits, not only with the electricity generated (albeit small), but also as a valuable teaching and research tool and as an opportunity to raise awareness of the need for sustainable energy production.

  • Water

    Water is an increasingly precious resource. The region is presently undergoing the harshest drought on record. The dams and reservoirs feeding the municipality are at record lows. In response, the UCT executive has formed a Water Task Team that raises awareness of water-related issues and will put contingency plans in place. UCT has already started several temporary water-reduction strategies.

    Permanent conservation measures thus far include the promotion of behavior change and the installation of water-efficient fittings, which are now specified for all new buildings. After extensive piloting, waterless urinals have also been retrofitted. The installation of digital water-metering technologies is under consideration for the medium term.

    UCT has a storage dam on upper campus, which serves to irrigate some of the grounds. It is also a source of water for the emergency services for fire control.

    See the water crisis page on the Staff or Students websites.

    News articles related to the water crisis

  • Waste and recycling

    Source separation of waste began in earnest during 2008, driven by students in the departments of Botany and Zoology and working with Properties and Services. In 2009 four-bin system was put in place. However, after feedback and waste audits, a simpler 2/3 bin system was introduced in 2012.

    Currently, the service provider collects recyclables and non-recyclables on alternate days, making use of the two-bin system that is in place: clear bags and green-lidded bins for recyclables, and black bags and yellow-lidded bins for non-recyclables. White-lidded bins are dedicated to the collection of white office paper for recycling.

    Food waste is now being separated at source in first-tier residences and is sent to a composting facility. This is a very positive initiative as the nutrients are being recycled, rather than lost to landfills.

    As with any other research-intensive university, UCT generates small quantities of a wide range of hazardous waste streams. Each stage of the life cycle of a hazardous waste material – generation, handling, storage, removal, transport, treatment and eventual disposal – is closely monitored by, and reported to, different organs of the state.

    UCT does recover some solvent waste, either at one of our departments or via the service provider, and recovers oils, also through a service provider.

    UCT has an e-waste service (e-waste is any item that contains electronic or electrical components) that is currently removing approximately 10 metric tonnes annually from UCT for reuse/recycling.

    UCT also collects used fluorescent tubes / compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) for safe disposal, as well as printer cartridges and certain unused plastic-ware from the laboratories for recycling.

  • Greener buildings

    In 2015 UCT occupied 224 buildings, 196 of these being owned by the university. The gross internal area of these buildings totalled 682 287 square metres. While these are the most accurate figures to date, there is still a measure of estimation as some of the data still has to be captured digitally from old building plans. The footprint has grown significantly in the last 10 years, increasing from 181 buildings with an area of 344 769 square metres in 2005 to 186 buildings with an area of 462 880 square metres in 2010.

    UCT covers approximately 25 square kilometres, with eight main sites in the city. While 101 of the university’s buildings are on the campuses on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, a further 50 are in the two neighbouring suburbs of Mowbray and Newlands. More of the university’s buildings are situated at the Hiddingh campus in the centre of the city, in the Waterfront area, and at various other sites in the wider city area. Beyond the city, UCT has a further 24 buildings in the Western Cape.

    The university has the privilege of owning 138 buildings and some infrastructure, e.g. lighting and drainage, that are heritage protected. Of these, 15 are national monuments.

    Being in the Southern Hemisphere, north-facing buildings make optimum use of the sun. While the Western Cape has a Mediterranean climate, the area is not called the Cape of Storms for nothing. Strong winds come from the south-east during summer, and from the north-west during winter. Unfortunately, making use of the sun is thwarted somewhat by the locations of the various campuses and the positions of existing buildings. Since half of Cape Town can see upper campus on the side of Table Mountain, the university’s buildings must be built in a sensitive way as to not upset its neighbours.

    In 2000 the Chemical Engineering building brief called for sustainable design. Some of the elements of the design were implemented, which resulted in a pleasant multi-use building. In 2010 it was proposed that the New Engineering Building would be built to a four-star green rating standard (the South African standard is based on the Australian standard). Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, this was not achieved. However, a sustainability consultant was included in the design and building teams, and energy modeling was undertaken. The same went for the middle campus development. Design aspects have been kept to varying degrees, for example, these buildings have deeply recessed windows, fins or shutters for solar control and thermal comfort. On the middle campus development, an environmental consultant was employed, and this resulted in a successful project to save a population of Cape rain frogs, which are red data listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

    In 2012 UCT Council took the formal decision, that all new buildings are to be designed and constructed to a minimum four-star green rating. The New Lecture Theatre, which was completed in 2016, was among the first to be certified in South Africa in terms of the final rating tool for education buildings. It has achieved a four-star green rating. Examples of the credits for this four-star green rating are the use of recycled aggregate in the concrete, and rain-water harvesting reducing the use of potable municipal water. Harvested water is held in tanks below the building and is used for flushing toilets.

    New Lecture Theatre