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South Thames puts sustainability at the core of college life

Global warming and the effects of human activity on the environment continue to be a hot global topic. Educational institutes are playing an increasingly important role in leading by example, attempting to combat this issue and educate future generations.

South Thames College is one of many colleges that has undergone an ambitious building and redevelopment project. The £140 million makeover across its Wandsworth and Merton campuses was the perfect opportunity to improve sustainability and take a lead in the community by reducing its carbon footprint.

The new buildings at South Thames College are home for the next generation of students, and how better to educate them about the environment, than having the environmentally-friendly practices in place across the college sites.

Merton campus students can witness first hand how recycled water is effectively used to irrigate flowerbeds and flush toilets. They can feel comfortable in the ‘intelligent’ building systems that self cool by automatically opening windows at night. Automatic lights compensate for human forgetfulness by turning off in empty rooms. Additionally, sedum planted roofs are literally a ‘green’ alternative effectively controlling the buildings temperature and aiding to reduce storm water run off. The sedum also acts as a filter for pollutants and carbon dioxide, helping to insulate the building for sound whilst also encouraging a natural habitat.

The Wandsworth campus also boasts new sustainable features. The building is fitted with a cladding panel system, allowing the building to be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. There is a Rainwater Attenuation System (RAT) to meet the Environment Agency’s requirements. The RAT retains rainwater during heavy storms and will allow rainwater to be discharged at a maximum flow rate. Internally, the new build utilises high efficiency lamps with the latest electronic control gear. Daylight control and automatic dimming of the lights is incorporated in order to optimise the use of the natural light and avoid the need for artificial lighting. Furthermore, an intelligent building management system controls all internal room environments and building services.

Incorporating sustainability into the very foundations of the college will help to bleed into the rest of college life. These systems are just the beginning of how the college plans to play its part in tackling global warming. Working groups are being set up to aid staff and students to work on the 3 Cs:

  • College – helping to reduce the college carbon footprint
  • Curriculum – identifying imaginative ways to introduce sustainable development into the curriculum
  • Community – linking with community groups to work together to promote the green agenda

This project is ongoing and challenging, but it increasingly becoming the college’s role to be an active leader in this matter, and it is in all of our interests to do so.

Sue Rimmer is principal of South Thames College

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