A TU Delft forest

TU Delft wants a carbon-neutral campus by 2030. In a recently published report, researchers outline how the university can achieve this ambition.

The researchers conclude that 1282 hectares of forest will need to be planted to make the campus carbon neutral. (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

Making TU Delft carbon-neutral by 2030 is certainly ambitious. Maybe impossible? But not if you plant trees. And lots of them! If TU Delft were not to take any energy-saving measures whatsoever nor generate more renewable energy than it does at present, it would have to plant around 3,500 hectares by way of compensation in order to meet the target. That’s an area almost one and a half times bigger than the city of Delft. This was calculated by architects Prof. Andy van den Dobbelsteen and Tess Blom.

But a smaller area may suffice since there are many measures the university could take. With this in mind, Van den Dobbelsteen and Blom continued their calculations. On behalf of Campus & Real Estate (CRE), they wrote the report ‘CO₂ roadmap for TU Delft’. It provides an analysis of how much energy is currently used on campus and of the energy systems. It also explores measures that could be used to achieve this ambition.

A 48,000-tonne footprint
TU Delft currently has a carbon footprint of almost 48,000 tonnes of CO₂ equivalents. The researchers talk about ‘equivalents’ because they also take into account other greenhouse gas emissions, such as nitrous oxide and methane. These have been factored into the footprint according to their global warming potential.

Apart from natural gas for heating the buildings and electricity consumption, the effects of food consumed while working or studying on campus are also included in the calculation. As is water consumption, waste management, business flights and commuting. 

The researchers want to minimise all these effects. They want to compensate the remaining CO2 with sustainable energy or offset it by planting trees.

Most comes from the food consumed during the working day

When you think about carbon footprint, the first thing that probably comes to mind is all the buildings that need heating and the high electricity consumption of experimental installations. Wrong. Most (estimated at nearly 14,000 tonnes of CO2) comes from the food consumed during the working day.

Second highest (more than 13,000 tonnes of CO2) is natural gas for building heating, largely via TU Delft’s heating network. Electricity consumption ranks third (over 8,000 tonnes), followed by business flights (6,700 tonnes) and commuting (almost 5,000 tonnes). The rest covers covering waste processing and water consumption.

The researchers propose changing food pricing in the canteens; environmentally-friendly options should be cheaper, environmentally-unfriendly food (animal products) more expensive. They also want to experiment with new forms of food production on campus, for example, greenhouses on roofs and crops on vertical walls. The Prêt-à-Logerhuis at The Green Village. Showed that glass skin on a building has many advantages: it acts as a thermal buffer and heat collector, and can be used to generate electricity, increase user space and also to cultivate food. Van den Dobbelsteen and Blom suggest that greenhouses on the side of large buildings are also a good option.


Energy systems on campus
Thirty percent of current electricity demand comes from lighting. Switching to LED lighting is a simple first step.
According to the authors, TU Delft will need to part with some energy-guzzling buildings. These could be demolished, but also sold.

There are also four faculty buildings that score very poorly in terms of energy consumption. Of all the buildings on campus, the Applied Physics building (built in 1963) has the highest total energy consumption. This building’s heat demand must be reduced by 80%. The entire building envelope needs to be replaced. Only the load-bearing structure will be retained. Big changes will also have to be made to the façades of CEG, 3mE and EEMCS.

TU Delft has an ambitious plan to produce geothermal energy

The Combined Heat and Power Plant (Building 43) has a crucial role to play in making the campus more sustainable. It is supplied with natural gas and provides the campus with hot water for heating and some of the electricity. The plant needs to switch to geothermal and other forms of renewable energy. TU Delft has an ambitious plan to produce geothermal energy. It is expected that, by the end of 2020, two pipelines will have been bored from the campus to a hot-water reservoir, more than two kilometres below the A13 motorway. This geothermal energy source, at 75 degrees, will be used to heat buildings on campus and in the surrounding area.

In addition, the campus will need infrastructure for exchanging heat and cold. ‘Smart exchange, coupled with seasonal storage of heat and cold, is a must for a university that focuses on sustainable, innovative energy systems’, the researchers write.

Solar panels and wind energy
TU Delft currently has about 1.1 megawatts of solar panels spread across the campus, covering 1% of total electricity consumption. That’s not enough. CRE has a commissioned a study to find out where more panels can be installed. “There are more and more integrated PV solutions available, which means that in addition to rooftop generation, façade generation is also interesting option,” says CRE’s Maria Hänsch.

Despite all the energy-saving measures TU Delft will actually need even more electricity, to power geothermal pumps and heat pumps and to cope with the electrification of mobility (there will be more and more electric cars). The Combined Heat and Power Plant and solar panels alone will not be enough. The remaining demand is currently covered by imported wind energy, which is virtually carbon neutral.

Towards 100% sustainable transport
According to the researchers, a sustainable campus should, first and foremost, move away from road traffic. There should be more and faster cycle routes to the campus and more business Public Transport cards, say the researchers. Electric and hydrogen cars should be encouraged. And it would ‘be great for TU Delft if the tram that runs across campus could be powered by batteries that are themselves recharged on campus using sustainable electricity’.

The researchers conclude that 1282 hectares of forest will need to be planted to make the campus carbon neutral. That’s over five times the surface area of the campus. Or 2564 football fields. Will those trees actually get planted? CRE can’t commit itself just yet. 

Editor Tomas van Dijk

Do you have a question or comment about this article?

Comments are closed.