Explore how eco-campuses are revolutionising the way we learn and live with their sustainable architecture and eco-friendly features. Follow us as we take you on a tour of these remarkable environmental marvels from around the globe!

With the growth of global environmental awareness, educational institutions are more readily embracing sustainable architecture to create eco-friendly learning environments — ‘eco-campuses’. By integrating green building practices, renewable energy sources, and waste reduction strategies, these campuses not only minimise their environmental footprint but also cultivate a culture of environmental responsibility among students, staff, faculty, and the surrounding community. Moreover, sustainable architecture can enhance the health and well-being of its members, resulting in better academic performance and productivity. 

So let’s explore real-world examples of sustainable architecture, featuring projects and programmes that prove the potential for a greener future in academia.

Green School Bali, Indonesia

Green School Bali, founded in 2008 by John and Cynthia Hardy, not only serves to educate for sustainability but also serves as a model for sustainability with its award-winning bamboo campus.

Set in the jungles of Bali, this innovative institution is a testament to the versatility and sustainability of bamboo as a building material. The campus is composed of more than 100 buildings, including the Heart of School, all of which are handcrafted from bamboo with the exception of their concrete foundations. Its classrooms are wall-less bamboo pavilions featuring alang-alang grass roofs, furnished with bamboo desks and chairs and surrounded by permaculture gardens. One of the newer buildings on campus, The Arc, won the Institution of Structural Engineers 2022 Supreme Award for Structural Engineering Excellence for advancing the structural application of low-carbon materials. The campus also boasts the Millenium Bridge, the largest bamboo bridge in Asia, with a span of 23 metres and a Minangkabau-inspired roof.

Aside from its sustainable architecture, Green School Bali is also home to the Green School Community Innovation Hub or iHub, which is set to become the greenest rapid prototyping space in the world. It has brought to life ideas such as waste management, managing over 1.2 tons of trash per month, and the Bio Bus lab, powering school buses using used cooking oil.

National University of Singapore, Singapore

As part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030 — a nationwide movement to advance the national agenda on sustainable development — the National University of Singapore (NUS) has resolved to take responsibility for its environmental footprint and create a campus that is climate-resilient and resource-efficient. Putting the plan into action, NUS has developed the Campus Sustainability Roadmap 2030, which contains several key sustainability programmes, one of which is the Cool NUS Initiative.

Using its campus as a living laboratory, NUS aims to create a campus that is resilient to rising global temperatures resulting from climate change. Under the BEAM project (Baselining, Evaluating, Action, Monitoring), the Office of University Campus Infrastructure (UCI) has partnered with researchers from the College of Design and Engineering (CDE) first to install a comprehensive high resolution sensor network to establish the Outdoor Thermal Comfort Index (OTCI) of its campus and, second, to simulate and testbed heat mitigation interventions such as reducing heat load, intensifying tree planting, and applying special paint to cool it. 

The Carbon Neutral programme is another one of NUS’s key sustainability programmes, which aims to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of its campus. Thus far, NUS has already electrified 11% of its campus fleet and planted 22,087 trees. To further these efforts, NUS will consolidate BTC chiller plants, initiate a campus-wide solar photovoltaic (PV) rollout, and commence energy audits.

University of Nottingham, UK

The GSK Carbon Neutral Laboratories for Sustainable Chemistry at the University of Nottingham, backed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), is setting new standards for green building practices. Constructed from natural materials and conducted on renewable energy sources like solar power and sustainable biomass, the facility aims to offset the carbon emissions from its construction over the next 25 years and remain carbon-neutral over its lifetime.

The construction of the facility features the use of PEFC and FSC-certified timber for its frame, walls, and floors, which were shipped from Europe to meet the requirements for LEED. It also boasts a winter garden that captures low-level heat in the spring and a biodiverse, drought-resistant, crop-covered roof. Additionally, the facility incorporates multiple water reduction technologies, including a water leak detection system and a sustainable drainage system that absorbs discharge from the green roof, dry swales, and filter drains.

In 2017, the facility was awarded the BREEAM Outstanding and LEED Platinum certifications — the highest levels of green building certifications.

The State University of New York College of Environmental Science & Forestry, US

The State University of New York College of Environmental Science & Forestry (SUNY-ESF) Gateway Center, recognised by the American Institute of Architects as a ‘striking symbol of environmental stewardship and climate action leadership,’ is ranked by the Institute as one of the top 10 sustainable architecture and ecological design projects in the nation.

Spanning 54,000 square feet and three stories, the campus centre accommodates a conference facility, café, bookstore, admissions and outreach offices, and a combined heat and power (CHP) plant. Powered by waste-wood pellets, the plant generates 60% of annual heating needs and 20% of annual power needs of the campus, resulting in cuts in fossil-fuel-generated Btu by 65,000 million, energy costs by 65%, and carbon emissions by 25%.

The bioclimatic design of the building solved the issues posed by a west-facing exposure and a narrow site sloping nearly 30 feet from east to west through the application of passive solar design principles. The design included angled walls, arranged as serial flaps or ‘flippers,’ to convert the unfavourable west-facing exposure into south-facing exposure, maximising direct sunlight and solar heat gain throughout the day. The exterior walls of the building are covered in interlocking aluminium shingles, while the base is constructed from recycled concrete blocks. The building is also topped with a green roof that features two natural plant communities, the Eastern Ontario Dune community and the Alvar Pavement Barren community.

A Greener Future

At Taylor’s University, we, too, are committed to creating a sustainable campus through our range of sustainability programmes and practices. Our endeavours include the campus-wide installation of solar panels to source renewable energy, the implementation of an automated irrigation system for our living walls to conserve water, and the development of an open space plan for our campus that promotes natural cooling and ventilation and provides habitats for wildlife! We are proud of the progress we have made so far, but we are not content to rest on our laurels. We are constantly seeking new ways to enhance our sustainability practices by learning from other eco-campuses around the world.

As educational institutions, we recognise our responsibility to be thought leaders and to lead the exploration of creative and innovative strategies for integrating sustainable architecture and design into our campuses. Only by advancing our sustainability journey can we pave the way for others to follow. Ultimately, we believe that when campuses and communities come together, we can build a better — greener — future for our planet and all its inhabitants.

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