Sustainable Campus: What does that mean in terms of practical implementation?

2023-02-20 Sustainability is part of Leuphana's mission statement - but what is the university doing in concrete terms to make the campus environmentally conscious? Irmhild Brüggen, Sustainability Officer, and Oliver Braune, Technical Director of Facility Management, explain what the contents of waste bins have to do with the carbon footprint and why the rinse water in the Central Building can sometimes look murky.

Oliver Braune vor der Druckerhöhungsanlage im Keller des Zentralgebäudes für die Regenwassernutzung ©Leuphana/Julia Gobs
Oliver Braune in the basement of the central building in front of the booster system for rainwater utilisation.

"What we teach about sustainability in research and teaching also has to be implemented in our own operations," is how Irmhild Brüggen sums up her task at Leuphana University. She is the sustainability officer. The general approach to climate protection and sustainability has changed comprehensively in the last two decades since Irmhild Brüggen has been working at Leuphana: "Today, the topic has arrived in society as a whole, that was different in the past." She brings together the various university institutions to advance the university's sustainable development.

One example of such projects, in which different agencies cooperate for the benefit of sustainability development, are the transdisciplinary project seminars that run over two semesters. The university, the Faculty of Sustainability, students and external companies work together. Currently, one seminar revolves around the topic of "waste": What distances does waste cover on its way to disposal? How much can waste be separated? And how does all this affect the university's carbon footprint? The students calculate these in the project seminar and are also in contact with the GFA, Lüneburg's waste disposal company.

The practical implementation of the sustainability goals in terms of energy and water at Leuphana takes place primarily in the area of operational technology. Oliver Braune has been employed at the university since 2015 and is the technical division manager in building management. "This is where all the strands of operational technology come together," he explains. The 12-member team takes care of both maintenance and the support and implementation of new projects.

"We think about sustainability and energy efficiency in all projects right from the start," says Oliver Braune. A good example of this is the rainwater utilisation system in the central building. The system is another set screw for a sustainable campus: 800 cubic metres of rainwater were reused last year with the system. For comparison: a four-person household uses this amount in about four and a half years.

The modern system supplies a good 140 toilets and urinals in the Libeskind building with flush water. The rainwater enters a 150-cubic-metre tank outside the building via the roof surfaces. Before being reused, the water passes through three filter stages: First, coarse elements, such as leaves and branches, are filtered out. Then the water is fed into the cellar, where it is first pre-filtered and then cleaned using activated carbon. After that, it is ready for reuse. The water does not necessarily look magnifying glass-clean after filtering: The cloudy colouration is caused by tiny microelements, but they are harmless for use as rinse water. In the future, it is possible that treated rainwater will also be used in other areas on campus, says Oliver Braune. This is conceivable for garden irrigation, for example.

At the turn of the year, the university introduced a new measure in favour of the sustainability goals on a trial basis for the first time: the company shutdown. For just under two weeks, the operating technology team lowered the heating temperature even further than is the case with the night and weekend reduction. At night and on weekends, the heating temperature is lowered by two degrees; during the shutdown, it was around four degrees. Due to the high outside temperatures, the rooms felt quite warm despite the higher savings. The employees were very supportive of the shutdown and made it possible to reduce energy consumption in almost all buildings, reports Oliver Braune in conclusion: "We have received positive feedback from the employees throughout the measure.


  • Dipl. Umw. Irmhild Brüggen
  • Oliver Braune