The extension of DTU Skylab is, like all new buildings at DTU Campus, built in accordance with the DGNB Gold sustainability standard. Foto Sebastian Stigsby

Sustainability is a high priority on campus

Sustainability has been incorporated into all new buildings and all renovations at DTU, and generally characterizes life on campus, though it is not always visible. 

All new buildings, renovations, and construction works at DTU must support a sustainable development. This is stipulated in DTU’s sustainability policy, and—since 2018—it has been a requirement for all new buildings that they must be planned and constructed in accordance with the DGNB Gold sustainability standard. However, the measures with the most beneficial effect on the climate can often be difficult to spot.

As an example, DTU’s outgoing Director of Facilities, Jacob Steen Møller, mentions DTU’s approach to solar cells. Based on an analysis, Campus Service decided to gather energy-producing solar cells in one place. This triggered criticism from students, who called for a more visible prioritization of solar cells on DTU’s buildings.

“Visibility and symbols are of great importance; but our sustainability work is always based on how we achieve the greatest effect from an investment. DTU is interested in how many tonnes of CO2 the plant can save. We’ve gathered the solar cells in large fields at DTU Electrical Engineering because it provides greater security of supply and makes it easier to service the plant. In addition, precisely DTU Electrical Engineering can make use of the entire solar cell plant for research,” says Jacob Steen Møller.

Another example of a sustainable, low-visibility approach is DTU’s switch to district cooling a few years ago.

“The system is one of the first of its kind in Denmark. It functions in synergy with the existing district heating system, thus combining heating and cooling in a whole district. But it all takes place underground, making it necessary to explain and communicate it if you need to account for the sustainability,” says Jacob Steen Møller.

Life cycle assessments

"A person entering DTU and turning on the light doesn’t see that here an investment has been made that has reduced CO2 emissions by many tonnes a year."
Jacob Steen Møller, Director of Facilities

Nor is sustainability always directly visible when it comes to the buildings at DTU, for example the extension of DTU Skylab, built in accordance with the DGNB Gold sustainability standard.

“Visitors can’t 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. The choice of steel supplier alone can make the climate footprint three times smaller. But no one can see what type of steel you’ve used because it’s inside the concrete as reinforcement bars,” says Jacob Steen Møller.

Recycling of waste

DTU also focuses on sustainability and recycling when it comes to waste management.

“We’re dividing waste into more and more fractions. We’ve long been separating cardboard, paper, metal, and biomass, and plastics will be next in line. Our waste management grows and is visible, but even this type of action quickly becomes part of day-to-day life, and no one notices that it works unless we communicate it,” says Jacob Steen Møller.

Other examples of invisible sustainability are DTU’s handling of rainwater, where few people know that Lyngby Campus was constructed 60 years ago as Denmark’s first and largest local rainwater percolation plant. Nor do people necessarily notice DTU’s investment in LED lighting both outdoors and indoors on campus.

“We have switched to LED light sources in 40,000 round ‘Lundtofte light fittings’, which are the standard lamps hanging from most ceilings at DTU. It gives great energy savings, and the light quality is much higher. But a person entering DTU and turning on the light doesn’t see that here an investment has been made that has reduced CO2 emissions by many tonnes a year and provided better lighting, concurrently with the light fittings having been updated to a modern standard,” explains Jacob Steen Møller.