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Overarching aim

To reduce the environmental sustainability impacts of our construction and refurbishment projects.


  • To establish and implement a standard for sustainable construction at the University of Cambridge that is context specific and is considered a leading approach in comparison with our peers.

  • By 2020, for 95% of buildings (by floor area) to have a minimum Display Energy Certification rating of 'D'.

The University of Cambridge has a significant capital building programme aimed at maintaining and enhancing the University estate. The Environment and Energy Section work closely with Estates Development, building users and external consultants and contractors to deliver on carbon and energy reduction targets, travel plan requirements, and water efficiency commitments. 

A strategic approach to renewal and refurbishment of the University Estate will play a key role in achieving our zero carbon target.  This will involve a cycle of heating system renewal so we can begin reducing our reliance on fossil natural gas.  

Decisions regarding building refurbishment and renewal are expected to be framed by what will deliver the best value and least environmental impact over the whole lifespan of the project; rather than a short term focus on lowest initial capital cost.

Below are some of the specific approaches, policies and standards that are guiding the University's work on sustainable construction and refurbishment.


All new major new build and refurbishment projects are required to be certified as at least ‘Excellent’ using BREEAM (the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). This is a comprehensive environmental assessment rating system for buildings, which includes aspects related to energy, water use, health and well-being, pollution, transport, materials, waste, ecology and management processes.

If BREEAM certification is not deemed appropriate, the design team must agree with Estate Management a method for measuring performance  that is considered to be at least equivalent to a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

Find out more about our BREEAM policy.

Heating and cooling policy

The University aims to provide a comfortable working environment for staff and students, while minimising carbon dioxide emissions and costs arising from the operation of heating and cooling systems. In particular we aim to minimise use of refrigerants that have high global warming potential. Our Policy on Thermal Comfort sets out our position on heating and cooling.

Download the Policy on Thermal Comfort

Design & Standards Brief

The University requires their construction project teams to adhere to a Design & Standards Brief.  This sets out a comprehensive set of design targets as well as requirements for demonstrating compliance.  In particular our new buildings are expected to make intelligent use of form and fabric to reduce reliance on mechanical systems.  For example daylight, natural ventilation, insulation and solar shading shall be exploited to reduce the energy demands from electric lighting, fans, heating and cooling systems.

The document also sets out a ‘Soft Landings’ process intended to ensure that design intent is translated into efficient operation once management of the building is transferred from the Contractor to the building users and the University’s maintenance staff.

Download the Design and Standards Brief here.

Embedding carbon into capital projects

We have created a CO2 Impact Template that allows the operational (scope 1 and 2) and embodied (scope 3) carbon impacts of capital projects to be considered from the outset. This standardises the way carbon emissions are reported when the business case for a capital project is submitted for committee approval.

You can find out more by downloading the ‘CO2 Impact Template’ and accompanying 'Guide’.

Managing our buildings

The University of Cambridge aims to manage its buildings and estate to promote environmental sustainability through its operations, its physical structures, and by enabling positive environmental behaviours.  In particular we are improving the quality and accessibility of our energy and water consumption data.

We have a commitment to maintain the grounds and buildings of the University estate in an environmentally sensitive way, from the planning and delivery of new capital projects to the chemicals used by our grounds maintenance teams.