University of Glasgow; University of Glasgow;

University of Glasgow Net Zero Carbon Strategy, Glasgow

Developing a net zero carbon pathway for a heritage estate

In 2019, the Scottish Government announced an amendment to its climate change bill, bringing in new legislation which aims to fast-track Scotland’s response to the global climate emergency. The latest update legislated to reduce the country’s emissions of all greenhouse gases to net zero by 2045.

The University of Glasgow declared a Climate Emergency in 2019 and has pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030, in alignment with further ambitious targets recently set by Glasgow City Council. Building on historic work to understand, measure and manage its carbon footprint the University was seeking to understand the scale of action required to meet net zero across its estate and operations.

Arup has worked with the University of Glasgow to develop a net zero carbon strategy, which will inform the University’s ongoing consultation in response to the climate emergency and sets out guidance on how to meet its carbon targets. The strategy considers what action is needed to improve and retrofit the existing campus to reduce energy demand and the likely scale of investment, as well as identifying the contribution that low carbon energy systems could make to emission reduction.

Project Summary


490 buildings

500,000campus

60%of current emissions footprint from buildings' energy consumption'

Responding to national targets

Established in 1451, the University of Glasgow has a diverse estate incorporating numerous heritage and listed buildings. With rising staff and student numbers, and a long-term estate expansion plan, the University wanted to gain an insight into how external factors - such as grid decarbonisation - combined with its plans to increase capacity would impact greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its portfolio. With an obligation to implement public sector legislation and adhere to changing national targets, the University needed to know how to reduce its carbon footprint across its estate and operations, whilst taking into account growing staff and student numbers and plans for expansion. 

Creating a zero carbon pathway

Our work has helped to inform University of Glasgow's first net zero carbon strategy, which provides a realistic programme of measures and an investment plan to meet interim carbon targets as well as setting out a path to achieving net zero carbon by 2030. Our long-standing affiliation with the University has given us a deep knowledge and understanding of organisational strategies and needs. This knowledge has enabled us to develop a bespoke, holistic carbon strategy to help meet its long-term net zero ambitions.


The strategy takes into consideration carbon emissions arising from the University’s directly owned buildings, energy consumption (59% of current footprint) and value chain, as well as GHG emissions from staff travel (24% of current footprint) and commuting (14% of the current footprint). By measuring the impacting factors on the University’s carbon footprint, we have advised on how to adjust its future emission trajectory.

The team at Arup was a pleasure to work with and the insight they were able to provide, in terms of determining the magnitude and costs of potential carbon reduction interventions, was invaluable when it came to plotting a realistic route to net-zero carbon emissions for the University of Glasgow. ” Dr Stewart Miller Sustainability Officer, University of Glasgow

Planning for the future

This work has helped to inform the University’s future capital and maintenance budgets and will reflect the likely investment required to improve the performance of the existing estate and integration of future energy systems.

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