Front view of the University of Hull; Front view of the University of Hull;

University of Hull Net Zero Carbon Campus Plan, Hull

Taking the University of Hull on a journey to net zero

Declaring a climate emergency in 2019, Hull set a target for the city to be carbon neutral by 2030. With a focus on reducing greenhouse gases through adopting a low carbon economy and removing any remaining carbon emissions, Hull has set its sights on becoming a carbon neutral city.

Reaffirming its commitment to both the city region and the urgent action required to reverse global heating and the climate crisis, the University of Hull is aspiring to be net zero by 2027. Setting out on a journey to reduce the carbon emissions of its campus to both reduce its operational energy costs and future-proof the university for decades to come, the University of Hull is aiming to be one of the first universities in the UK to achieve net zero.

Arup undertook a comprehensive review of the carbon emissions generated by all buildings owned and operated across the estate – alongside the current measures and interventions being considered by the university – to design and deliver a zero carbon plan with a clear roadmap to achieving the ambitious 2027 target.

For a campus this size, we recommended an approach that would both look to drastically reduce the University of Hull’s total energy consumption and source remaining energy demand from low carbon sources.

Project Summary

9,542 tonnes of CO²e saved 

12,711MWh saved

2027target for net zero operations

A clear roadmap to becoming net zero

Prior to the introduction of the Zero Carbon Plan, the university’s electricity consumption was 38% of the campus’s total energy consumption, whereas gas accounted for approximately 62% of this figure.

With total carbon emissions estimated to be at 9,830 tonnes of CO²e, it was clear that a number of interventions needed to be implemented to ensure adequate reductions in carbon across the University of Hull's estate.

Our team grouped interventions under five guiding principles:

  1. Avoid energy consumption – through space utilisation, energy management and reducing building stock;

  2. Reduce energy consumption – using energy efficiency measures including improving the building fabric and system efficiencies;

  3. Eliminate fossil fuels – by switching all gas consumption to ‘free-from’ alternative supplies such as heat pumps;

  4. Increase renewable energy supply – utilising onsite or offsite renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics and wind etc;

  5. Offset any remaining carbon – after all other feasible measures to reduce carbon emissions have been exhausted, high-quality carbon offsets can be considered and purchased to cover any residual emissions with a focus on ensuring emissions reductions are as robust as possible.

Brid's eye view of University of Hull Brid's eye view of University of Hull

Reducing energy consumption

As buildings age over time, so does their efficiency and energy performance. A total of 24 buildings on the campus have been identified to undergo refurbishment works. By upgrading these buildings, their ventilation systems, chiller plants, building management systems and lighting will reduce the university’s energy consumption by 21% and its total carbon emissions by 18%.

In recent years, there has been a shift in focus within the built environment with regards to the sector’s approach to embodied carbon. Driving down operational carbon will always be an essential element of the net zero buildings challenge, but increasingly the focus is turning to embodied carbon and the notion that retrofit and reuse are more closely aligned with whole-life net zero in comparison to demolishing and building new.

Through retrofitting these buildings and upgrading their performance, we are helping the university to drastically reduce its energy consumption.

Energy consumption can also be reduced through space utilisation technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT) based sensors, which can be used to control building systems including lighting, heating, and ventilation systems. Through implementing these across campus, it is estimated that these sensors can result in up to 25% of energy savings by allowing the University of Hull to turn off or adjust areas of the campus when not in use.

These sensors can similarly be used to identify high and low occupancy levels to enable underutilised parts of the campus to be repurposed for further teaching and collaboration space.

 Entrance signage at the University of Hull.

Moving away from fossil fuels

Across the estate, fossil fuels are being eliminated through our team’s recommendation to install heat pumps. Replacing existing systems with heat pumps will help to significantly improve the overall efficiency of the current heating system, from an 80-95% efficiency with the current gas boiler, to an efficiency that is approximately three times better with air-source heat pumps. In addition, heat generation is transferred to an energy source that has the potential to be zero carbon – which would not be possible with fossil fuels.

Delivering ambitious decarbonisation targets within higher education

We are continuing to provide the university with a clear programme of carbon reduction measures and interventions through to its ambitious 2027 target and subsequent centenary year.

In addition to providing the university with a clear implementation plan and actionable timeline to support the decarbonisation of its estate, we subsequently delivered a number of feasibility studies and off-campus site assessments for the installation of solar PV panels and wind turbines to ascertain their viability as options for future renewable energy generation.

Through the ongoing implementation of our net zero carbon campus plan, the University of Hull has already made substantial progress towards its target – with the university reducing its carbon emissions by 50% since the plan launched.

Learn more about how we can decarbonise the higher education sector