Technical University of Denmark: DTU develops sustainability throughout the University

DTU’s development of sustainability on campus will become more visible in 2021 with the expansion of indoor waste sorting into 12 fractions and a digital recycling exchange on which the departments can exchange materials. However, the biggest sustainability contributions will be in the form of a reduction of DTU’s energy consumption and on the procurement side, where—in future—materials and products for construction and operation of campus will be assessed in a life cycle perspective.

“I think it’s a big step forward that we will now systematically sort all waste—including small electronics, metal and porcelain—on all DTU’s campuses. The central issue is that we need to change our behaviour. My generation didn’t grow up with waste sorting, and my children can’t understand at all how we could just throw plastic, bottles, metal, and electronics into the ordinary waste bin. It’s important that waste is sorted correctly from the start, and I actually think that most people are happy to do so with our new scheme,” says Peter Brønd, Director of Facilities at DTU.

The new waste sorting solution is one of many priority areas in DTU’s sustainability policy, which has been developed in continuation of DTU’s strategy for 2020-2025: Technology for people, where sustainability is one of three objectives. The policy sets out how DTU will contribute—in words and actions—to a sustainable transformation of society, and how DTU works internally with sustainability in the University’s research and academic activities, management, and overall culture.

“Sustainability is a completely natural part of our work with technology at DTU. It is part of our DNA to create sustainable solutions to the benefit of society.”
Peter Brønd, Director of Facilities
“Sustainability is a completely natural part of our work with technology at DTU. It is part of our DNA to create sustainable solutions to the benefit of society. The whole essence of sustainability is consequently that you not only need to think about yourself here and now, but that you have to think about finding a solution that can last for many years and that will not have negative impacts on our descendants,” says Peter Brønd.

The latest waste sorting fraction on DTU Lyngby Campus is polystyrene, which can be compressed into a polystyrene compressor. Students can access data for the compressor and utilize the data for calculation of energy savings in the form of less road traffic and savings through recycling.

Procurement of sustainable materials
An important parameter in the sustainability work is DTU’s procurement of new materials, which accounts for 75 per cent of DTU’s climate footprint. Therefore, DTU has increased focus on its carbon footprint in connection with its procurement of everything, right from office chairs and desks to entire buildings. Building materials such as cement weigh heavily in the sustainability accounts. All new builds at DTU must therefore be constructed according to the sustainability standard DNGB Gold, which lays down a number of requirements, including for the durability of the materials and the service life of the building.

“Visitors can’t necessarily see by looking at the building that it’s carbon footprint is several times lower than that of another building. This can only be ascertained if you have life cycle assessments prepared for the individual components. But concurrently with our focus on the service life of the building, we will—in future—also prioritize using more wood in our building projects. In some structures, this may be an environmentally better solution than steel and concrete, although the opposite may also be the case,” says Peter Brønd.

He stresses that DTU’s future sustainability house—the Climate Challenge Laboratory—which will be taken into use in 2023, will have a strong focus on wood as a building material.

Lower carbon emissions
In 2019, DTU switched to heating supply from the waste management and energy company Vestforbrænding, thus changing the composition of its heating supply. A large part of the heating was previously supplied by gas-fired boiler heating, and the heating is now a composite from waste, electric heating, and gas. This has halved carbon emissions from DTU’s heating consumption to a level of 500 tonnes of CO2 per year.

The heat pump solution will also be utilized as a Living Lab, where data collection and digitalization can allow students to use the facility for projects and in teaching in cooperation with DTU Mechanical Engineering.

An important contribution to reducing electricity consumption is the switch to LED bulbs in the round ceiling lamps. With 20,000 lamps on the Lyngby Campus, this gives a significant energy saving in the electricity consumption. The LED bulbs also have the great advantage of lasting for 10 years, thus providing savings on maintenance and annual replacements of filament bulbs.

Digital sustainability
Digitalization is a recurring element of sustainability projects at DTU. New buildings are constructed with sensors and meters, which can supply data after the construction process and make it possible to monitor the operation of buildings in the form of digital twins. For example, it will be possible to supply data on temperatures and climate in auditoriums, which are information users often request and which DTU would like to provide because it can help promote sustainable behaviour.

“Data for digital twins will be used both to optimize the operation of the buildings and to supply data to the users. But they will also be made available to our researchers and developers, so that they can be used in the development of future sustainable solutions,” says Peter Brønd.

Biodiversity on campus
DTU’s campuses in Ballerup, Risø and Lyngby are all constructed as green areas. On Lyngby Campus, oak trees dominate, and—in the coming years—the planting will form part of a green wedge; a dispersal corridor where meadow grass, shrubs, and trees provide good living conditions for the naturally occurring plants, animals, and insects.

“In DTU’s green areas, we would like to have planting that belongs in the landscape. This means that the plants we put out are those you will usually find in nature around campus, and not Japanese knotgrass or bamboo. We have focus on biodiversity, and there are areas that have been laid out for native plants to grow freely and serve as habitats for the animals that would otherwise live in the plain out here,” says Peter Brønd.

The dispersal corridor is developed in cooperation with the Municipality of Lyngby-Taarbæk and is to result in greater biodiversity, not only on campus but over a larger area.