Principle 1 of the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) covers the follows issues:
UCT introduced some digital web-based metering in 2011, and in 2014 made the decision to roll out metering to all buildings. This project has now been completed. Electrical energy-use reporting is available on the energy consumption page.
Electrical equipment is continually being replaced with more efficient technologies. Solar water heaters have been installed to some small and medium residences. Energy-efficient heat pumps, which are more suitable for morning-peak demand, have been installed in larger residences.
UCT is investigating other renewable energy technologies to save operational costs and to demonstrate environmental responsibility. The Department of Electrical Engineering has conducted research into photovoltaic panel installations on the roofs of some of the larger buildings on campus. Although the electricity generated will be small, the project will be a valuable teaching and research tool, as well as an opportunity to raise awareness of the need for sustainable energy production.
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. UCT has already started several temporary water-reduction strategies.
Permanent conservation measures include the promotion of behaviour change and the installation of water-efficient fittings. After extensive piloting, waterless urinals have also been retrofitted. The installation of digital water-metering technologies is under consideration.
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.
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.
Recyclables and non-recyclables are collected on alternate days. Clear bags and green-lidded bins are for recyclables, and black bags and yellow-lidded bins are for non-recyclables. White-lidded bins are dedicated to the collection of white office paper for recycling.
Food waste is now being separated in some residences and sent to a composting facility.
As with any other research-intensive university, UCT generates small quantities of a wide range of hazardous waste materials. These are closely monitored. UCT does recover some solvent waste and oils.
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 for reuse/recycling.
UCT collects used fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) for safe disposal, as well as printer cartridges and certain unused plastic-ware from the laboratories for recycling.
In 2000 the Chemical Engineering building brief called for sustainable design, and this resulted in a pleasant multi-use building. Recent construction has included buildings with 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 endangered rain frogs.
In 2012 UCT Council took the formal decision that all new buildings are to be designed and constructed to a minimum 4-star green rating. The New Lecture Theatre, which was completed in 2016, achieved this rating. It used recycled aggregate in the concrete, and rain-water harvesting reduces the use of potable municipal water. Harvested water is held in tanks below the building and is used for flushing toilets.