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The interior of the David Attenborough Building.

An estimated 300 tonnes of furniture ends up in skips around the UK every day

The job of building manager is a varied and challenging one, with many competing demands to contend with to keep their buildings running efficiently and safely, and the occupants happy and comfortable. However building managers also have a big influence over the environmental performance of their building. That’s why the University’s Environment & Energy section run a regular ‘Building Managers Network’, giving holders of this important role the chance to explore and discuss energy and environmental issues. On 25 November, the most recent meeting was held, with a focus on waste reduction and reuse. Attendees heard from three speakers, covering topics that could help cut the University’s £1.4m annual bill for waste disposal. Read on for a summary of the presentations, and the opportunities for Cambridge University buildings to move to-wards a low-waste future!

Knights of the 'circular' table?

Jamie Harbour from Rype Office opened with evidence showing that, over the lifetime of an average building, the largest contributor to embodied carbon emissions comes from an unusual source. Not the concrete in the floors, or the metal in the walls, but the furniture! An estimated 300 tonnes of furniture ends up in skips around the UK every day, and with furniture and furnishings being replaced many times over the lifetime of a building, it’s clear that all the excess waste and production of new furniture adds up to a vast environmental impact.

Rype offer a unique and valuable approach to the issue, using a keen eye for value to recondition and remanufacture existing furniture to a high standard to meet changing space needs. Their creative approach to design also means they can create offices built around the concept of a ‘circular economy’, with sustainable and low-waste alternatives to everything from ceiling tiles to flooring. As well as diverting furniture waste from landfill, Rype are able to deliver significant savings over ‘new’ furniture fit-outs, and offer a ‘buy-back’ clause which helps isolate building occupants from the risk of poorly-made furniture with a short design life. If you have an up-coming office move or refurbishment, get in touch with Rype for a free audit of your furniture to see how much you could save your budget, and the environment!

Dream scheme for equipment

Michael McLeod from UniGreenScheme presented on an initiative which launched only last year at the University of Cambridge, but has already helped divert 9 tonnes of equipment from disposal and to grateful new owners - including the electron microscope pictured here! UniGreenScheme are the ‘University Asset Resale Service’, and specialize in finding homes for unwanted equipment, in particular that from laboratories.

With many labs around the University having changing occupants, research needs, and technologies to support their important research, a common side-effect is cupboards and shelves over-laden with equipment gathering dust. UniGreenScheme are a quick and efficient solution, who can quickly move on equipment, and even pass a share of the profits back to the department’s budget to support new investments. 

Use it or lose share it

Peter Lumb from the Environment & Energy Section presented on the University’s ‘WarpIt’ system, reminding Building Managers that this free portal facilitating internal reuse has now helped save the University nearly a quarter of a million pounds in its 5 years at Cambridge. With an average of 50 staff registering to use WarpIt every month, and 80% of items posted on the portal being claimed internally, there’s no excuse for not finding, and sharing, unwanted but usable items on the portal, from furniture to equipment to stationery! The graph here shows just how much Warpit has grown over the last year, so if you're a Cambridge staff member, what are you waiting for? Get on board!


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