How is RMIT meeting the SDGs?

How is RMIT meeting the SDGs?

This Global Goals Week we take a look at what RMIT is doing to meet the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, from operations, to research, curriculum and partnerships.

Global Goals Week (18-26 September) is an event to cultivate ideas, identify solutions and build partnerships with the power to solve complex global problems from inequality to climate change.

It’s been five years since the goals were developed, with the RMIT-wide Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Project initiated in June 2018.

The 17 SDGs. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

RMIT has made considerable steps towards the goals and supporting the sustainable development agenda internationally and nationally.

In April this year, RMIT was ranked number one globally for efforts to reduce inequality in the Times Higher Education SDGs Impact Rankings.

RMIT was also the first university to instate a dedicated SDGs role, currently held by Chief Operating Officer and Sustainability Committee Champion Dionne Higgins.

Higgins said she was pleased with the progress RMIT is making toward the SDGs across its entire operations.

“We are continuing to take giant strides forward thanks to the genuine and positive action of our passionate people,” Higgins said.

With a long-term goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 - here’s a look at the actions the University is taking to get there.

RMIT Buildings

RMIT strives to create inclusive spaces that enhance the experience and wellbeing of their people and have a positive impact on the surrounding environment and society.

Sustainability Committee Champion Higgins, who is also the Executive Champion for Accessibility, highlighted the importance of inclusion as one of RMIT’s six values.

“Inclusion is not something we say, but something we live each day,” Higgins said.

“Our places, spaces and communication options enable full participation in university life, for our staff and students alike.”

The focus on inclusion aligns with the SDGs of quality education (4), gender equality (5), industry innovation and infrastructure (9), reduced inequalities (10), sustainable cities and communities (11), and climate action (13).

Tess Kelly Photography RMIT City Campus - Bowen St and Garden Building

The RMIT Design Standards, which set out best practice in sustainable design, are implemented across all building projects on campus.

Through the work of the RMIT Sustainability Team, the University has seen the New Academic Street Project (NAS) achieve a 5-star Green Star As-built rating.

NAS utilises both natural and mechanical ventilation schemes so that more comfortable outdoor weather conditions can permeate the building.

RMIT’s Garden Building was constructed using low impact cross-laminate timber and utilises natural ventilation too.

The recently constructed OurPlace is targeting a 5 Star Green Star Rating, which upon certification would mean RMIT has over 100,000m2 of floor space is certified under a formal Green Star rating.

Carbon and climate

With the overarching goal to be carbon neutral by 2030, RMIT is addressing climate action by reducing emissions and adapting to climate risks.

The University is already well on the way to achieving this goal, reporting that emissions were 48% lower than they were in 2007 at the end of last year.

RMIT have undertaken several energy efficiency initiatives across all campuses, including the installation of over 40,000 LED light fittings, energy efficient control systems and on-site energy generation.

On campus, there are roughly 2,500 solar panels that deliver 600kW of solar power.

RMIT also leads a group of Melbourne universities and businesses to source wind energy produced in regional Victoria.

The deal will see 22 RMIT buildings across the City and Bundoora East campuses become 100% carbon neutral from January 2021, including Melbourne architectural icon, The Capitol.

This builds on the first Melbourne Renewable Energy Project which enabled RMIT to purchase 25% of its electricity for the next ten years from Crowlands Wind Farm in regional Victoria.

Together the two contracts will provide 70% of RMIT’s grid electricity supply.

These initiatives contribute to the SDGs of affordable and clean energy (7) and climate action (13).

Circular economy

With Australia’s landfill expected to reach capacity by 2025 and roughly 67 million tonnes of waste generated every year, RMIT is implementing circularity principles in their operations through re-use, recycling and education.

The target for 2020 is for 80% of construction and demolition waste to be diverted from landfill.

Assets such as furniture are repaired, reused or upcycled to extend their life.

The new Sustainable Retail Framework has been rolled out to encourage RMIT retailers to implement more sustainable practices, including reuse, local sourcing and providing culturally diverse food offerings.

On campus retailers can now display a gold, silver or bronze rating to demonstrate their sustainability journey.

These measures target the SDGs of industry innovation and infrastructure (9) and responsible construction and production (12).

Water

Did you know RMIT stores 1.3 million litres of on-site water?

It’s stored under the University lawn (behind Building 1), in the basement of Building 80, under the Bundoora West Sports Field, out the front of Building 11, and in two old boat testing tanks under Building 10.

There are also 1,500 water-efficient fixtures throughout the buildings and 40 smart meter devices installed across RMIT campuses.

Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) is a key feature of RMIT’s Bowen Street landscaping and Brunswick’s Landscape Master Plan, which enable greater capturing and storing of water on sites for reuse.

These contribute to the SDG of clean water and sanitation (6) and RMIT’s broader goal of reducing water use intensity across campuses.

Curriculum and research

Shaping future leaders with the skills, talent and passion to drive positive change addresses all 17 SDGs.

To do this, RMIT has redesigned their programs to align with the University’s sustainability strategy and embedded SDGs across the curriculum.

Staff and students are encouraged to complete micro-credentials to build their sustainability capabilities, regardless of their discipline.

RMIT’s research also focuses on collaboration, impact and capability to tackle real-world challenges across all the SDGs.

RMIT has eight Enabling Capabilities Platforms (ECPs), which connect researchers from multiple disciplines under thematic umbrellas to tackle these issues.

Dr Mohammad Boroujeni lead a team of researchers which found a blend of old tyres and building rubble could be used as a sustainable road-making material.

Associate Professor Abbas Mohajerani lead a research team which addressed the global littering problem which sees more than 1.2 million tonnes of toxic waste deposited from cigarette butts.

Their solution was a step-by-step plan to recycle butts into bricks.

Governance, investments and partnerships

To ensure the ongoing priority of the SDGs across the University, RMIT’s Sustainability Committee reports directly to the Vice Chancellor’s Executive (VCE).

They oversee the development and implementation of sustainability initiatives across all areas of the University.

The Responsible Investment Principles guide investment decisions that help keep global temperatures under two degrees and support sustainable societies.

RMIT is also working with Skalata Ventures, a not-for-profit organisation that runs an independently funded seed program to scale and grow early-stage companies into sustainable businesses.

Through partnerships, RMIT is focused on working with all sectors and sizes to be the partner of choice for organisations to realise their sustainability goals.

Some of the University’s existing partners include Jean Monnet Sustainable Development Goals Network, UNEVOC Centre, and Cooperative Research Centres.

For more information, you can read the RMIT Sustainability Story.

 

Story: Caleb Scanlon

23 September 2020

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23 September 2020

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  • Sustainability
  • Design
  • Property & Construction
  • Environment

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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business. - Artwork created by Louisa Bloomer