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Environment and Energy


Overarching aim

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


  • 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 aims to manage its buildings and estate to promote environmental sustainability through its operations, its physical structures, and by enabling positive environmental behaviours.

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.

Built environment

Cambridge’s capital building programme, spearheaded by the Estate Development Section in Estate Management (EM), aims to enhance the already-impressive University estate. The Environment and Energy Section work with EM and external colleagues to deliver on carbon and energy reduction targets, travel plan requirements, and water efficiency commitments.


The University’s new buildings are certified through BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). This is a comprehensive environmental assessment method and rating system for buildings, which includes aspects related to energy and water use, the internal environment (health and well-being), pollution, transport, materials, waste, ecology and management processes.

Find out more about our BREEAM policy.

Heating and cooling policy

The University aims to provide a comfortable working environment for staff and students, and to comply with Health and Safety requirements while minimising carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and costs arising from the operation of heating systems. The Policy on Thermal Comfort sets out our position on heating and cooling.

 Download the Policy on Thermal Comfort

Low carbon and renewable technologies

The local planning authority requires that all new University buildings are equipped with renewable energy generation that will supply at least 10% of the building's annual energy requirements.

Currently, this has been met in a number of ways across Cambridge’s varied estate. There are several photovoltaic (PV) installations on University roofs, feeding directly into the new building and thereby reducing the amount of electrical energy required from the national grid. Several ground source heat pumps aim to reduce the need for and demand on gas boilers. Natural and passive ventilation systems encourage natural air flow for fresh air and cooling. Solar shading maximises the potential for natural light but reduces the glare and additional heating from direct sunlight.

Rural estate

The University owns approximately 65ha of woodland, including Madingley Wood - a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) - and the historic woodlands surrounding Madingley Hall. The University’s forestry and agricultural land is managed by Estate Management's Rural Surveyor. The farm and forestry land is predominately located near Cambridge, Madingley, Lolworth and Lord’s Bridge.

The University’s rural estate contains several habitats and species identified in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority list:

  • lowland meadows
  • lowland mixed deciduous woodland
  • sites suitable for the Great Crested Newt, Water Vole, Otter, Pipistrelle Bat, Song Thrush, Grey Partridge, Skylark, Bullfinch, Turtle Dove and other farmland birds, and Brown Hare.

Madingley Wood

Madingley Wood is an ancient woodland and one of the longest-studied ancient woods in Europe, with research records going back over 350 years. It is closed to members of the public but is used by University departments for specialist woodland research.

800 Wood

800 Wood was officially opened to the public by the then-Chancellor of Cambridge University, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, in April 2009 to mark the University of Cambridge’s 800th anniversary. The 10ha new woodland was designed to complement the adjacent Madingley Wood SSSI.

A variety of native tree species were selected, including ash, oak, and hazel. A woodland public footpath in the shape of a figure of eight runs through the wood, and the woodland has been designed to retain views east across to Ely as the trees mature. 800 Wood contributed 50% towards the county’s Local Habitat Action Plan which aimed to create 20 hectares of new woodlands by 2010 to link up to ancient woodland clusters.