Gloucestershire College celebrates completion of GC Zero works

GC students lower time capsule WEB[4]

Gloucestershire College has celebrated the completion of its ambitious GC Zero building works, taking it closer to its goal of delivering net zero campuses by 2030 and cementing its place as a leader in driving decarbonisation in the education sector.

The first college in the country to move to 100 per cent renewable energy celebrated this milestone in a ceremony that featured a unique time capsule installation, tour of the sustainable new facilities at Gloucester Campus, and unveiling of the official plaque by Richard Graham, MP for Gloucester.

The time capsule, lowered into the ground by students, features items that represent where GC is in its sustainability journey, including student projects, sustainable building materials and collateral, staff and student hopes for the future, campus photos and more.

In an enclosed letter written to the future generation, Principal and CEO Matthew Burgess, explains the college’s commitment, and the purpose of GC Zero and the time capsule, which is to be opened in 50 years’ time.

Cheltenham Campus Solar Panels[4]Matthew Burgess said: “I’m thrilled to have reached this milestone in GC Zero, considerably reducing our carbon emissions, educating our students and achieving energy security. It’s been a challenging journey but we’re delighted to now be running on 100% renewable energy – in fact, producing much more than we need – meaning any surplus power we generate can be returned to the grid to support the UK in reaching its own energy security ambitions.

“Gloucestershire aims to become greener and I’m hoping that GC becomes a flagship for our county and, indeed, the further education sector, setting an example for what can be done with the right vision and support.

“We are now working with our students to influence their food choices and embedding carbon literacy into the curriculum, so they understand the implications of the snacks and lunches they buy. In terms of transport, we actually installed the cable ducting for electric vehicle charging points during the GC Zero works, so we will introduce that as soon as we can.”

Ceremony attendees included project funder Salix Finance, project partners Hillside Environmental Services and Integral, The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education (EAUC), Business West, Gloucestershire County Council, GFirst LEP, Bamboo Technology Group, Gloucester Rugby and many more supporters, including college staff, students and governors.

Richard Graham, MP for Gloucester, said: “What Gloucestershire College has achieved is unbelievably important, not just for us here today, but for our children and their children. The Government can design policies and we can be the first major economy to commit to a net zero target, but ultimately, the success depends on local implementation.

“Gloucestershire College is one of the four biggest employers in the county and, in leading by example, this city will have a much better chance of hitting its net zero ambitions. The private sector will follow if the public sector sets the example.”

Three years ago, Gloucestershire College set an ambitious target to become carbon zero by 2030 – 20 years ahead of the UK Government’s own 2050 pledge. It began immediate action on a £5.5m retro-fit project across its Gloucester and Cheltenham campuses. It’s newest Forest of Dean Campus in Cinderford has run on solar power since it opened in 2018.

The significant building works covered the installation of ground source heat pumps to electrify campus heating; solar panels – 3,245 in total – to generate renewable electricity; and smart energy controls to optimise energy consumption. Combined, this delivers green, competitive and secure energy services that future-proof GC and protect the planet.

The college expects to reduce its carbon emissions by up to 65 per cent in year one and by 95 per cent in the next five years. Coupled with improvements to its transport links and food offer, it should achieve net zero much sooner than its original goal.

The vision was made reality thanks to £2.8m funding from Salix Finance, alongside £2.7m invested by GC, and looks set to save the college up to £400k per year in energy bills. Sustainability consultants, Hillside Environmental Services, developed a 20-year business model and managed the project plan through to delivery.

The college was recently announced as a finalist in the prestigious Green Gown sustainability awards and aims to inspire other UK colleges and universities to follow in its decarbonising footsteps.