Sustainable Campus Operations© Martin Braun
Operations – Fostering a Sustainable Organization
Our goal is to make campus operations at RWTH Aachen University more sustainable, reducing our environmental footprint in the spirit of climate neutrality, and to actively foster a culture of responsible and inclusive cooperation.
From the Sustainability Mission Statement
Sustainability is considered a central cross-cutting task at RWTH and is therefore considered in all spheres of action and areas of work at RWTH. Three GreenTeams (teaching and learning, research, and operations) have been established in order to implement the commitment to a more sustainable RWTH in everyday university life, as stated in the Sustainability Mission Statement.
Regular meetings, which are open to all university members, enable participation in the further process and ensure that the different perspectives are taken into account in the discussions. In addition, the GreenTeams discuss, develop, and define the goals and measures for the respective areas – teaching and learning, research, operations – with which RWTH is aligning itself more sustainably.
More information about the GreenTeams and other participation formats can be found under Participation in the Sustainability Process on the Help Build a Sustainable RWTH page. The GreenTeams resulted from the Sustainability at RWTH Workshop in March 2021.
A sustainable university in all areas - I already emphasized this vision when I applied for the junior professor position at RWTH. I am very pleased that now, as a rector’s delegate, I have the chance to put my words into action and really make a tangible contribution toward a more sustainable university.
Professor Niklas von der Aßen
Especially when it comes to campus operations, numerous individuals and organizational units are involved in the sustainability process. They are primarily in the Central University Administration, but also in the many decentralized institutions of RWTH.
The Staff Unit: Sustainability and University Governance is the central point of contact for the topic of sustainability at RWTH. It coordinates a wide variety of sustainable measures and projects in the overarching sustainability process. You are welcome to contact the staff unit at any time with questions, tips, and project ideas related to sustainability. The inquiries and topics are processed in dialog with the various contact partners and/or, if necessary, the appropriate networks are established within the university.
RWTH – Climate Neutral University by 2030
RWTH wants to be a climate neutral university by 2030! RWTH has committed itself to this goal by signing the Race to Zero. More than 1,000 universities from 68 different countries have pledged to halve their emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 at the latest, impacting over 10 million students in total. The initiative, led by the Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education and Second Nature, is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme, or UNEP for short.
By signing the Race to Zero, RWTH has pledged to:
- Achieve climate neutrality by 2030.
- Develop a climate protection plan to achieve this goal
- Implement initiatives to achieve this goal, in line with the climate protection plan
- Publish public reports on progress toward the goal as well as on actions taken
Below you will find explanations of individual topics and answers to questions that we are frequently asked about sustainability in our operations. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com or ask them during our sustainability consultation hours.
Why is waste at RWTH not separated? What options for waste separation are available at RWTH?
Up to now, paper and residual waste has regularly been separated in the RWTH buildings. In fact, waste separation as we are used to at home faces a variety of challenges at RWTH, for example, waste is thrown in by passers-by, especially near the city center, or the lack of parking areas for the waste containers in front of the buildings, which also have to be easily accessible so the waste collection vehicles can empty them.
Nevertheless, this contribution to the environmentally-friendly use of resources should be established where possible. In order to evaluate the possibilities of more differentiated waste separation, "yellow garbage can" pilot projects have been and are being carried out. In particular, the locations for additional containers, waste volumes, and suitable awareness-raising measures are being evaluated.
In addition to waste separation in offices, the services offered by Waste Management Service Center – SCA) also include the following:
- Provision of recyclable material containers (mixed: plastic, wood, metal), which are emptied regularly or on call
- Containers for individual fractions (glass, electrical waste, construction waste, wood, metals, shavings, etc.)
- Possibility to drop off waste at the SCA
- Regular collection of special waste (used tires, fluorescent tubes, toner cartridges, data protection media, styrofoam, etc.)
- Individual consulting e.g. of institutes by the SCA/waste management officer regarding the disposal of new/"difficult" waste
What type of electricity (gray/green) does RWTH purchase and what is the tendering process for the supply?
RWTH generates approximately 35 percent of its own electrical energy in highly efficient combined heat and power plants (CHP) with combined heat, power, and cooling, with the primary energy source here being natural gas. 65 percent of the electrical energy is procured on the basis of a call for tenders that is part of an award procedure, in the application of the Ordinance on the Award of Public Contracts (Vergabeverordnung – VgV), the Act against Restraints of Competition (GWB), and Directive 2014/24/EU of the European Parliament and Council.
The call is published via the German Tender Gazette (DAB) – where all information on the next award procedure is publicly available. The procurement strategy resulting from this award corresponds to an electricity purchase close to the exchange. This is in line with the principle of economic efficiency, as a particularly good price can be achieved in this way.
Physically, only gray electricity (electricity mix from different supply sources, i.e. renewable/regenerative and non-renewable energy) can be procured on the stock exchange in Germany. The control of the shares of renewable energy in this electricity mix happens on the one hand on the basis of the legal regulations (Renewable Energy Sources Act - EEG, Combined Heat and Power Act - KWKG ...), but on the other hand economic effects, such as the merit order, also have an influence here.
In the upcoming tender for the electricity procurement of RWTH, the purchase from renewable sources, physical and/or balance will certainly be more considered and focused. The framework conditions of the tender will be discussed and decided in particular between Department 10.0 – Facility Management, Department 7.0 – Finance, and University Management. The Staff Unit: Sustainability and University Governance is supporting the process in an advisory capacity. Discussions are already underway and the indications from the Operations GreenTeam meeting will be incorporated into the decision-making process.
What options are there for RWTH to purchase green power?
To really ensure that, in physical terms, only renewable electricity is fed into the RWTH grid, it must either be generated by the company's own RE generation plants within the grid, or green electricity must be purchased from external plants that are connected to the grid via a direct power line.
An alternative to this is offered by green power tariffs or using so-called Guarantees of Origin (HKNW) to make gray energy more environmentally friendly.
Green power tariffs
Green power tariffs can ensure that renewably generated green power is actually produced by an RE plant. However, this is a purely accounting construct. The physical green power share in the gray power mix does not change. It is also important to note that there is currently no legal definition of "green" or "green electricity". For this reason, a wide range of products is grouped under this term. Here, a closer look and evaluation are required. In principle, however, a corresponding supply contract can be concluded with an energy supplier within the framework of a call for tenders.
Guarantees of origin
Guarantees of Origin (HKNW) for renewable electricity can also be purchased independently of the electricity supply contract. These represent a flexible alternative to the green electricity tariff product but result in significantly higher administrative and time costs. Guarantees of Origin make it possible to purchase virtual green power in parallel to an ongoing supply contract with gray electricity, thus improving one's own eco-balance. The costs for the Guarantees of Origin are in addition to the costs for electricity purchases.
Trading in Guarantees of Origin largely takes place within the framework of the electricity trading described above. Although the EEX European Energy Exchange has been offering HKNW trading products since 2013, the volumes traded have been small to date. This could be partly due to the fact that the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) provides for the so-called double marketing ban (§ 80 EEG). According to this, operators of RE plants are not allowed to claim the EEG feed-in tariff and sell Guarantees of Origin for the electricity at the same time.
Where can I found out more about RWTH's energy consumption?
Why does RWTH not have solar panels on every roof?
In principle, it must be taken into account that most of the buildings used by RWTH do not belong to the University, but the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Bau- und Liegenschaftsbetrieb (BLB) NRW is therefore responsible for the renovation of these buildings, as well as for new constructions.
In their feasibility study, Department 10.0 – Facility Management evaluated the possibilities of installing solar panels on RWTH-owned buildings. Factors to be considered included the amount of greenery on the roof area and technology for building operations (heating, cooling) as well as the architecturally permissible roof load of the individual buildings. Unfortunately, the study has not revealed any easily tapped potential for installations of solar panels on the roof surfaces of existing RWTH buildings to date.
The medium-term goal is to implement at least ten large solar panels, each with approximately 100-kilowatt peak (peak power), in upcoming construction and renovation projects in coordination between RWTH and BLB. In addition, the potential for installing solar panels on the buildings will be evaluated as a standard part of the construction and renovation projects.
It should also be noted that the standards for sustainable construction in accordance with the certification systems according to DGNB (German Sustainable Building Council) or BNB (Assessment System for Sustainable Building) are taken into account in construction and renovation work by both BLB NRW and RWTH.
What is RWTH's approach to lighting? Are (LED) lamps used at RWTH?
The transition from fluorescent tubes to suitable LED lamps was surveyed for the RWTH in various pilot projects and the conceptual design for the comprehensive transition is being led by Department 10.0 – Facility Management. Similarly, timer switches and motion detectors for reduced lighting durations have been implemented in various buildings and are also being implemented by Department 10.0.
As RWTH and Uniklinik RWTH Aachen are separately organized, the above-mentioned projects do not apply to Uniklinik RWTH Aachen.
Who can I contact if something in the energy supply (heating, air conditioning, ventilation) is broken or not working properly, for example, a radiator valve or a window?
If you are experiencing any faults, you are welcome to contact the Fault Reporting Office (Störungsmeldestelle) of the Technical Facilities Management. Please use the reporting form for reporting faults where possible. Please enter all necessary information (building, room description) in the form. It is also possible and helpful to upload photos of the fault.
What habits can I personally adopt to save energy at work?
May electronic signatures be used in an effort to make processes greener and more efficient?
Since March 2021, electronic signatures (digital signatures) on PDF documents can be used as a valid signature for internal business transactions. Detailed information on this topic is available in German via this circular: A 2021-16 Nutzung der elektronischen Unterschrift innerhalb der RWTH (March 9, 2021).
Are there plans to introduce the option of submitting theses digitally?
This is an important and very current challenge that is already being worked on at the University.
At the beginning of 2021, the Digital Submission of Term Papers and Theses Project was launched. The goal is to provide a system for all students and examiners to use for the digital submission of theses.
To this end, representatives from the faculties, the students, various administrative units, and the IT Center are working together in a working group, with the project being supported by the Student Lifecycle Management (SLCM) Coordination.
First, the needs will be identified, then a corresponding target process for submission will be developed, and finally, appropriate IT support will be introduced (planned for 2022). An adjacent project will create the possibility to archive digitally submitted work.
Will the direct contract award process also be digitized in the future, now that procurement via central purchasing already has a possible digit format (eBANF)?
At the beginning of August 2020, an electronic form with a simple approval workflow was set up for university institutions via eBANF. In addition, the RWTH Purchasing Portal was already launched at the beginning of May 2020, with end-to-end digital ordering and invoicing workflows. You can also filter for organic/Fairtrade products in the Hospitality - Catering section of the RWTH Purchasing Portal.
The order slips are still being issued in paper form. Their number is set to be reduced by expanding the online portals. Work is currently underway to introduce an eProcurement system that will enable all procurement processes to be performed digitally in the future. This will replace the paper order form and extend the range of direct ordering via online stores and catalogs.