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Five examples of campus innovation from the 2019 Green Gown Awards

Nominees for the Campus of the Future category at the annual Green Gown Awards offer some great examples of innovation and emerging technologies on the university estate.

University College London (UCL)University of NorthumbriaUniversity of the West of England (UWE)University of the West of Scotland (UWS) and University of Worcester are all shortlisted in the Jisc-sponsored category of the annual Green Gown awards, which recognise sustainability best practice in further and higher education.

From the adoption of emerging technologies to innovative and sustainable practices in horticulture, the category nominees show how universities are striving to create greener, intelligent campuses that offer the best possible student experiences. Here are five examples of innovation that the nominated campuses highlight.

Occupancy and footfall monitoring

By capturing data on how buildings or spaces are used, universities can make decisions about utilities use and resource distribution. They can even use this data for planning the curriculum and how learning space is allocated.

Northumbria is using footfall cameras in its new computer and information science building, counting people in and out, recording their dwell times and frequency of visits.  Meanwhile, at UCL, sensors are placed under each desk space in its new student centre, demonstrating occupancy rates consistently more than 80%, with hundreds of students making use of services in the evenings and at weekends.

Optimising learning environments

Having the right conditions for learning is important and the Green Gown shortlist shows how universities are investing in intelligent systems that control lighting, ventilation and heating.

Worcester’s flexible open spaces are fitted with intelligent lighting, user-controlled real-time energy management, heating, ventilation and cooling, which are improving the student experience and campus sustainability.

This technology can even in be used in open plan teaching areas, allowing them to work as seven distinct zones, each with its own smart lighting system which monitors occupation and shuts down when not in use.

Northumbria also has intelligent buildings, with embedded sensors for monitoring energy, water, and temperature.

Active and collaborative learning spaces

There is growing evidence that active and collaborative learning can improve outcomes and universities are responding by moving away from traditional lecture theatres to more flexible and interactive learning environments.

UWS is using emerging technologies to embrace the latest developments in higher education pedagogy in a shift away from traditional lecture layouts. By blending modern teaching methods and contemporary learning environments, UWS is seeking to provide staff and students with a flexible environment that is both fit for today and for future generations.

For UCL, with more than 40,000 students and an increasingly dense and space-constrained campus, there has been pressure to provide spaces that support its focus on flexible and adaptable spaces for learning and research. Its recent development of a student centre was conceived and designed exclusively to enhance the student experience. 

Northumbria has a multi-zone space, giving 24/7 access to IT provision and providing the bulk of its active learning library, while at Worcester, the open plan nature of the teaching zones encourages interdisciplinary and inter-year collaboration with peer to peer critique.

Mixed-reality learning spaces

Cutting-edge technology, such as mixed reality, is increasingly used in areas where students learn and socialise, as well as research facilities.  At UWS, nursing and midwifery students are learning in the country’s most modern simulated wards and the university is also home to a cutting-edge extreme environments laboratory, designed to replicate environmental extremes, including temperature, altitude and humidity.

Future campuses are not just about the tech

For UWE, the future campus is one that is bee friendly. The Frenchay Beeline project is a scheme bringing nature into the heart of the university through planting edible pollinators and replacing grass and scrubland with meadows.

One benefit of the project, which runs across 30 locations on UWE’s Frenchay campus, is that it gives staff, students and visitors access to free herbs, fruit and vegetables, while also helping to enhance biodiversity.

Grounds manager Richie Fluester says that, in coming years, the university can extend the use of technologies to manage the campus, including next-generation batteries and innovative horticulture methods. But he adds that the Beeline project is proof that the future campus can also have “a softer side”.

Sue Attewell, Jisc's head of change - FE and skills says:

"At Jisc we’re always keen to support innovation and drive the use of emerging technologies.  We sponsored the campus of the future category as it aligns with our intelligent campus project, plus our Education 4.0 vision, and we’re really pleased with the quality of entries."

Find out more about Jisc’s vision for Education 4.0, which embraces many of these trends. Winners of the Green Gown awards will be announced on 26 November at a ceremony in Glasgow.

More here.

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