Our sustainability commitment

A wholistic approach

We are aspiring to be the most sustainable university in the world.

Our ambition is to lead the way in sustainability, shaping the future of the built environment for generations to come. We understand that sustainability is a fundamental practice that must be integrated into all our actions.

Our core purpose reflects our commitment to sustainability:

“To provide truly accessible, relevant, and cost-effective education, which enhances careers, increases professionalism, and contributes to a sustainable built environment.”

The world is facing a climate crisis, and we need a paradigm shift in the way we think about sustainability. At UCEM, we are committed to help drive change, and we aim to inspire others to do the same. Through our innovative teaching and research and ability to influence, we aim to create a ripple effect that transforms how we build, design, and maintain the built environment.

What is the problem?

Without change, we cannot create a sustainable built environment

The current state of the planet is a crisis that affects every industry. We know that the built environment sector has an impact on the environment and significantly contributes to our carbon footprint. Buildings are responsible for almost 40% of global energy consumption and 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Urbanisation is one of the most significant trends around the world. By 2050, the United Nations (UN) predicts we will be an almost exclusively urban species. As cities expand, our sector’s depletion of natural resources has a massive impact on the environment. The construction and maintenance of buildings require substantial energy, leading to unsustainable practices that contribute to the climate crisis.

UCEM recognises the collective and growing need to do more, both at speed and at scale, to address the climate emergency.

56%

40-50

38%

Of the world’s population currently lives in cities. This number could be closer to 100% by 2050, according to the UN

Million tonnes of CO2 emitted annually from the construction process, maintenance and demolition of buildings

The approximate percentage of energy-related carbon emissions worldwide caused by the built environment

UCEM’s role

What part do we play?

We recognise our role as a leader and educator in creating a sustainable built environment. Through our teaching, operations, partnerships, and influence, we are committed to leading the way. By collaborating with others, we can build on our existing partnerships and leverage our collective strength to effect change.

Education is critical in driving innovation and growth in sustainability, and we believe it will accelerate our overall goals of protecting and adapting to the changing needs of our planet. As a specialised university focused solely on the built environment, our pre-defined scope enables us to concentrate our efforts where change is needed most. With global accessibility and a commitment to amplifying diverse voices, we strive to offer a more representative definition of sustainability.

There is a lack of necessary skills and competencies to deliver and maintain a sustainable built environment. UCEM is uniquely positioned to be the vital custodian of the built environment by providing and developing the necessary skills and qualifications to those who are shaping the world around us, creating a better future for all.

This is why we have developed a new MSc Innovation in Sustainable Built Environments programme which empowers students to become change agents for a more sustainable built environment.

We also have a range of sustainability short courses and professional training in our Online Academy focusing on carbon emissions within the built environment as well as a free sustainability case study.

Sustainability, climate literacy and net zero are at the heart of construction and the built environment sector. Attraction, recruitment and developing existing talent are critical to catalyse the transformational changes needed to address ‘green jobs’ and careers, positively impacting future generations.”

Aled Williams
Executive Director: Innovation and Partnerships

Globe

Our Sustainability strategy

UCEM’s sustainability strategy sets out our aspirations for a more sustainable built environment and how we perceive our role to provide some solutions to our sector’s challenges. Framed as Globe, it demonstrates our institution-wide wholistic approach, and focuses on five key dimensions as illustrated by our interactive wheel.

Sustainability is central to everything we do – from our leadership and governance, to what and how we teach, as well as who we influence and the way we operate.

Learn more about
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What we teach

What we teach

UCEM offers teaching and research that provides both new and established professionals with the knowledge and skills to deliver a sustainable built environment, working with employers, government agencies and professional bodies. Each module offered has some alignment with the UN Sustainable Development goals.

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The way we teach

The way we teach

UCEM ensures teaching is student centred, flexible and enables greater access, equal opportunity and diversity through innovative development and delivery of our education. As an online and a specialist university, we are able to focus our efforts where change is needed the most.

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Leadership and governance

Leadership and governance

UCEM takes a wholistic approach to sustainability. Establishing it as a strategic driver, sustainability is central to the institution’s purpose, and at the heart of our culture, decision making, leadership and management.

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How we operate

How we operate

Demonstrating leadership in sustainable business operations, acting as a model of best practice for the industry with sustainable operations in both physical and digital estates. UCEM’s Horizons building is a physical example of this.

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Who we influence

Who we influence

Influencing and inspiring our far-reaching, diverse global community to amplify our impact on shaping a sustainable Built Environment and Higher Education sector through engagement, education and collaboration. We recognise students as the ambassadors of change who will have the biggest effect on change.

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Our students and sustainability

Ambassadors of change

At UCEM, we strongly believe that our students are the future of the industry and have the capacity to make a tremendous impact on creating a more sustainable future. That’s why we are committed to providing our students with the knowledge, skills, and resources to tackle some of the challenges the built environment faces today.

We recognise the importance of our students’ role as influencers and ambassadors of change. As such, we strive to create a learning environment that empowers our students to champion, critique, and advocate for positive change.

Alumni and sustainability

Lifelong influencers

As part of our sustainability strategy, we aspire to develop alumni and students who are lifelong ambassadors and influencers for sustainability in the built environment and beyond. To help achieve this we have created an Alumni Lifelong Influencing Plan (ALIP) 2023-2025. The plan requires collaboration between staff, students and alumni to deliver opportunities such as:

  • Case studies & project synopses
  • UCEM Sustainability Research Prize
  • Sustainability initiatives & events
  • Feedback & enhancement opportunities

If you are a UCEM alumni and would like to find out more about the ALIP or our Student & Alumni Sustainability Committee, please email alumni@ucem.ac.uk

What is sustainability?

Sustainability in the built environment

Sustainability in the built environment sector requires technical knowledge, innovation and strong leadership. It also requires a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the population, brings in new talent and can influence change.

The process involves design, construction, operation, and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure in a way that minimises their environmental impact while maximising their economic and social benefits for long-term viability.

Definitions

Sustainability is defined by the UN as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainability is a wholistic approach which takes into consideration the environment, society and the economy for future prosperity.

Environmental sustainability

To achieve environmental sustainability, the earth’s natural resources must be consumed at a rate where they can replenish themselves.

Economic sustainability

Economic sustainability means that everyone has access to economic systems and the resources they need to meet their needs and have secure sources of livelihood.

Social sustainability

Social sustainability means that universal human rights and necessities are attainable by all and that everyone has access to the resources they need to keep themselves healthy and secure and protected from discrimination.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals

Embedding them in everything we do

UCEM has signed up to the Sustainability Development Goals Accord, which is a commitment to advancing sustainability as a higher education institution. We use the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for understanding and addressing the many dimensions of sustainability. We recognise that sustainability is more than just the environment – it encompasses social and economic elements as well.

We strive to equip our students with the knowledge and skills they need to make a meaningful impact on the world by incorporating SDGs in most things we provide – including courses, modules, events, and webinars.

We also aim to have a broader impact, through activities such as our student well-being provision, equality and diversity initiatives and financial support schemes.