KTH has a long way to go, according to students Tevfik Ektas and André Wassberg, who cast a critical eye over the environmental work being done on campus. (Photo: Håkan Lindgren)

Students examine KTH’s environmental track record

Published Sep 05, 2016

KTH’s work towards creating a sustainable campus has recently been analysed in essays by two students. In the essays Tevfik Ektas and André Wassberg examine KTH’s energy usage and put the institute’s environmental and sustainability work into an international perspective.

Master’s Student Tevfik Ektas was surprised that there had never been a comparison of the energy consumption levels at KTH Schools. But, at the same time, it was no easy task.

“It was very difficult to get an overview. I've had to speak to a lot of different people to find out simple things such as which properties a school rents,” says Ektas.

Tevfik Ektas, Master’s Student.

It was only when he looked at internal rental invoices and reverse-engineered them that he managed to get a summary of the areas that schools were considered to be using.

But the metric that the property owner Akademiska Hus offers also needs to be improved. In Ektas’s view, it is not refined enough to distinguish between energy usage by the buildings and in operations.

“It has to be made easier for schools to monitor their own energy consumption, otherwise it is difficult for them to improve anything,” says Ektas. Generally, he feels that the rental model should be revised to provide clearer incentives for both tenants and property owners.

Decrease in energy consumption

Meanwhile, the level of actual energy consumption has fallen in the past five years. But according to Tevfik Ektas that reduction is entirely down to Akademiska Hus.

“Only two out of the ten schools have set energy targets. There is also no requirement from KTH for them to have such targets—it is up to each school, although it has been said that this will change.”

Lina Häckner Bredås, Environmental Coordinator.

Environmental coordinator Lina Häckner Bredås welcomes the students' work. She believes that their criticisms are in many ways justified, but points out that a series of actions on energy usage are planned for 2017, as part of KTH's overall sustainability target.

“Over the next year we will do an energy audit of all the buildings on campus, as well as of Akademiska Hus. The survey will then form the basis of an action plan to reduce energy consumption,” says Häckner Bredås.

Previously, smaller projects have been implemented in the schools, such as information campaigns and measurements of specific energy-using equipment. The hope is that a broader approach will also give schools more opportunities for improvement.

“We have an ongoing discussion with Akademiska Hus about using a better measurement tool that can show how energy is being used. We need more tools and methods that can motivate the schools to review their consumption levels,” explains Häckner Bredås.

There is also a need to include looking at how other schools work and what lessons KTH can learn from them, in Häckner Bredås’s view.

Obstacles to progress

André Wassberg, Master’s Student.

André Wassberg’s master’s work shows that the Swedish model, with different property owners and users, is unique. Wassberg states that universities who own their properties can more easily carry out effective work towards meeting sustainability targets.

“KTH was the only university in the study that did not own its own premises. The institute’s sustainability work is hampered by the fact that all changes to buildings need the approval of Akademiska Hus,” says Wassberg.

In his analysis, Wassberg used the international environmental rating systems UI GreenMetric and Stars Rating.

His goal was to see which strategies and approaches have given top universities success, through a series of interviews with environmental managers.

“One of the interviewees said that it was only when they saw their ranking rise that the leadership realised the importance of environmental work, as it has a positive effect on how the university´s brand is seen internationally,” says Wassberg.

He notes the same situation when it comes to KTH's work in recent years.

Göran Finnveden, Vice President for Sustainable Development.

“Environmental work at KTH only picked up real momentum in 2011, when the institute ended up at the bottom of the Environmental Protection Agency's ranking of Swedish teaching institutions' environmental work. Other Swedish universities started this work much earlier, several of them did so as early as the year 2000.”

A long way to go

Wassberg also feels that while the environmental certification ISO 14001 is a way forward, it does not have any actual requirements for achieving environmental goals.

“ISO certification is a good start but KTH has a long way to go to strengthen their environmental efforts,” he says. “And given the lack of resources, we should be making more use of master’s students. We are concrete examples of this.”

Göran Finnveden , KTH’s Vice President for Sustainable Development, agrees that there are clear advantages to participating in the rankings systems.

“At the moment there is no environmental ranking that KTH fits into, but we are following closely the development of the various systems. The Environmental Protection Agency’s ranking system is the one that is nearest to fitting our profile, and we have climbed sharply up the table in recent years.”

Göran Finnveden also agrees that master’s students' essays are a good example of how more people can engage with KTH's environmental work.

“Generally, we want to encourage more people to start environmental projects, in teaching, research or other areas. And that is something that is a part of KTH's sustainability goals,” he says.

Text: Magnus Pahlén Trogen

“Use in-house skills”

Some of the conclusions from the master’s theses:

  • Review the rental model to create clearer incentives for reducing energy consumption by both tenants and property owners.
  • Create clearer roles, not least at KTH, for a more effective cooperation on energy conservation.
  • A joint energy council would be a good idea, with representatives of property owners, tenants and experts.
  • Improve the tool that displays actual energy consumption at each school.
  • Use KTH’s own in-house expertise better, especially the master’s students.
  • Look at what’s being done in Swedish colleges and universities, so we can benefit from each other's lessons and knowledge.