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Cardiff Met turns campus estate into 'living lab' in a bid to tackle climate change

News | 29 October 2021 

Cardiff Metropolitan University are setting out plans to tackle climate change using its university estate as a research and development lab to help find innovative ways to reach net zero by 2030. 

Academics, estate managers, industrial partners and students are coming together to tackle climate change at scale, developing and showcasing ways to live and learn more sustainably across our work and social lives, effectively building a 'living laboratory'. 

New innovations in construction, thermal heating and energy production and storage will be developed side-by-side with industry and evaluated across the university estate over the next decade with the view to developing new ways of dealing with climate change in our day-to-day lives. 

Focused on two main campuses, the university is situated on a relatively large green footprint, combining ancient woodland, commons and playing fields with world-class sports facilities and a modest grouping of modern multi-purpose buildings. Following an evaluation of its estate's portfolio back in 2019, the university refocused its efforts on expansion across its existing footprint, repurposing buildings ahead of new construction wherever possible.  

Launching a new academic school (Cardiff School of Technologies) in 2018 and the first in a series of interdisciplinary Global Academies in 2020, together with emerging plans for new hybrid models of working post-Covid, the university is in the middle of an ambitious programme of repurposing spaces to create flexible research, learning, study and socialising hubs focusing on collaboration, flexibility and health and wellbeing.  

Recently the university has converted 6,472m2 of its existing internal footprint, offsetting at least 30% of the carbon a new build would have emitted during construction. A new estates master plan is being developed with repurposing buildings being favoured above new buildings.

However, plans will not be limited to construction. A rewilding project started during the coronavirus pandemic has seen more trees planted, parking replaced by green spaces, honeybee hives, bug hotels and hedgehog friendly environments adopted across the estate and the university fleet of vehicles replaced by all electric and hybrid options with high performance charging points to be installed in the future. 

The MetRider bus service, in partnership with Cardiff Bus, provides easy, cost-effective green access to campuses by public transport.  

In the community, students, staff and local residents are already engaged in regular Keep Wales Tidy litter picks around the Llandaff, Cyncoed and Plas Gwyn (Student Halls) campuses. In 2020, 126 volunteers supported local litter picks surrounding our three sites, with equipment available to loan from the university at any time.  

Environmental workshops, community days promoting local produce and Repair Cafés held monthly and the university's first zero waste store on campus have seen a surge in students, staff and the community proactively choosing more sustainable buying options.  

The Welsh Government has set a target for Wales to reach Net Zero by 2050, with the university setting its ambitions to achieve this target as soon as 2030. Here at Cardiff Met, we will play our part to ensure lessons learned here can help us all achieve a Net Zero Wales.