Monday, July 27, 2009

Space and sustainability

Last week the government unveiled their plans to reduce greenhouse admissions in the UK by 34%. Universities are already looking at how to reduce carbon and how to embed sustainability across what they do: in the curriculum, in estates planning and management and through related activities (for example, the University of Brighton recently won funding for as part of the edible campus network). This is not just altruism - the government has also said that from 2011, some of the funding that institutions receive will be linked to how well they reduce carbon emissions.

So, sustainability is becoming increasing interlocked with learning spaces. As the Guardian reported recently (Let's have a heated debate July 21 2009), this is not just about the physical issues of building and energy costs - although these are crucially important - but also about the next generation of students. The article quotes Iain Patton, executive director of Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges, saying " No matter how large a university carbon footprint is, it is nothing compared to the impact of its graduates when they leave and enter homes and workplaces. If we miss this, we really do miss the larger picture. When at university, we have the responsibility to ensure learners are exposed to knowledge and values which they can take on with them as informed, responsible citizens. Every aspect of our campuses, buildings, teaching and leadership must be oriented to achieve this."

Image: Agnes Denes, Wheatfield – A Confrontation, 1982. Two acres of wheat planted and harvested in Battery Park Landfill, downtown Manhattan. Commissioned by Public Art Fund, New York City. Photo: Agnes Denes - currently on show as part of Radical Nature exhibition, Barbican, London.

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