HKUST Annual Report 2019-2020

SUSTAINABLE HORIZONS HKUST has successfully wrapped up the HKUST 2020 Sustainability Challenge, its first ever sustainability master plan. This plan was aggressive in its scope and reach, and planted HKUST firmly as a sustainability leader in Hong Kong. The Challenge identified two specific operations targets: reducing waste to the landfill by 50% and reducing energy consumption by 10% using 2014-15 as the baseline year. For waste, the 50% target was successfully reached by 2020 by reducing roughly 1,665 tons of our landfill waste. This came from a combination of actions across campus – from eliminating waste at source as a primary focus and from maximizing recycling of any waste generated on campus. For recycling, more than 200 recycling bins and collection stations have now been installed around the campus, over 15 different types of materials get recycled, and a food waste collection program was introduced. Food waste represented the largest source of recycling – encompassing canteens, staff quarters, residences, and offices. The process was streamlined through the adoption of smart technologies to collect precise daily waste collection data and information across the campus using an RFID-integrated electronic scale. The HKUST 2020 Sustainability Challenge was initiated in 2014-15 as an ambitious plan to demonstrate sustainability leadership in four areas: reducing energy consumption and waste (Operations); setting up campus-wide networks to drive sustainability actions and policies (Communities); designing and implementing novel eco-applications on site (Demonstration); and building an educational and research framework to ensure students graduate with a commitment to sustainability (Education). Each of the focus areas included specific goals which were detailed and measurable. For the 2020 energy goal, the result fell slightly short with an actual reduction of 7.9% below the baseline year. However, two major new initiatives were launched in the final year of the Challenge—a large industrial-scale solar energy project, and a strategic cooling tower installation to reduce energy in off-peak times—that will further reduce the energy consumption by an estimated 4.5%, which is enough exceed the 2020 goal when fully operational. The overall performance requires some analysis because of two significant factors. Firstly, the waste and energy reductions were achieved despite expansion of around 41,500m 2 (8.8%) in campus space and 1,300 (8.2%) more campus users since 2014-15. Put another way, the electricity usage per square meter of space declined by 15%, and the waste per capita reduction was 54%. In practical terms, the electricity reductions were sizable enough to completely offset our four newest buildings, plus two new ones that have yet to be built. The second factor is the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which made 2020 a difficult target year to assess. On the one hand the virus was responsible for a portion of the energy and waste reductions because fewer people were on campus during the Spring semester, but on the other hand it increased the amount of disposable waste (like take-away containers and masks), and some of the energy usage simply migrated from the on-campus offices to the on-campus staff residences. All in all, the overall impact of the virus was roughly 4% of the campus totals for both energy and waste. OPERATIONS The 2020 Challenge objective was to “create an HKUST Sustainability Network to form a core social backbone to support and advance sustainability actions and policies across departments, schools, and the campus.” Even with campus closures and the move to online learning, this Network of students and staff remained the core of our person-to-person sustainability efforts. For the sixth year, the HKUST Sustainable Smart Campus Leadership Program engaged 20 student Eco-Reps to design and implement projects to motivate the campus to adopt eco- friendly behavior. To bridge periods of working from home, staff adopted the motto “From social distancing to distant socializing!”, sharing videos of sustainable activities they had carried out while encouraging others to participate. In 2020, HKUST also took over the convenorship for the Hong Kong Sustainable Campus Consortium, comprising the eight publicly funded universities. As convenor, and despite the challenges of COVID-19, the University has encouraged collaboration on the Consortium’s eight-year Strategic Plan (2019-27) to improve collective performance on sustainability. COMMUNITIES The 2020 Challenge objective was to “develop visible on- site demonstration projects that contribute to campus sustainability goals while showcasing the work of HKUST researchers as contributors to solving global sustainability challenges.” This 2020 goal has been fulfilled by the “Sustainable Smart Campus as a Living Lab” initiative ( ) which was launched in 2019. With an initial allocation of $50m, funds are now available for University members to devise and demonstrate innovations on campus as a testing ground for wider application in the future. Since the launch, a total of 19 projects have been funded including the SmART staircase project to test whether vibrant artwork could result in better fitness and well-being. A perennially algae-filled pond was drained, cleaned, and rebuilt with a novel water filtration system. Meanwhile, several on-going projects that utilize the internet of things moved toward deployment, among them an indoor navigation system and a tree health sensor. In parallel, project teams continued to work with video experts and visualization professionals to make these initiatives come alive as learning tools. Students were encouraged to become more involved through group projects and a student paper competition focused on campus sustainability challenges, with the latter drawing 60 entries. DEMONSTRATION HKUST ANNUAL REPORT 2019-2020 41 40 Sustainable Horizons

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