Student Architects 2018/19: Final Project Blogs

Our 2018/19 Student Sustainability Architects have come to the end of their year with us. In their posts below, they give an overview of what their projects have achieved as well as some insights on what they have gained from their time with us.

If you are interested in applying to be a Student Sustainability Architect in 2019/20, please visit sustainability.leeds.ac.uk/student-sustainability-architects to find out more.

Katy

Since October I’ve worked with Great Food at Leeds as a Student Sustainability Architect, delivering a campaign aimed at reducing staff and student meat consumption in the Refectory. For a number of years I’ve had a personal interest in how individual food choices can affect the planet, especially with regard to meat consumption, so being able to run a project focussed around something I am so passionate about has been great.

Undertaking some survey research with a team   of volunteers in the Refectory outlined the customer demand for a move towards more plant-based meals also. Therefore, I have spent my time since these results promoting the exciting meat-free options that the Refectory already offered, as well as lobbying for the introduction of more vegetarian options. This culminated in Great Food at Leeds’ contribution to the university’s 2019 Healthy Week in June, where plant-based eating was the main focus area. Approximately one-third of the meals sold during Healthy Week were vegan, which was a huge success! I hope that next year’s promotion is as successful as this year’s.

I’ve learnt a lot during my time in this position. Although running a project with little experience was initially daunting, the experience has been invaluable. As someone who wants to work in sustainability in the future, it’s been great not only planning and overseeing my own sustainability project but also getting a deeper insight into the work that the Sustainability Service do more widely. Additionally, conducting a small sustainability project within a large organisation has been really useful for me to understand the challenges facing the implementation of sustainability projects. Despite the steep learning curve and challenges along the way, I believe that my experience in this role will help me progress in my future career in the environmental sector. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and hope that the Refectory’s focus on meat reduction continues far beyond my time in Leeds!

Lulu

My time as a Sustainability Architect has been a journey. Not only has this role reaffirmed my passion for sustainability but it has provided me with more personal goals for the future. The journey began with big ideas to transform the way students took part in and engaged in sustainability. I wanted to further my knowledge of delivering sustainable projects and supporting sustainable goals.

I had previously said in my first blog post as Sustainability Architect ‘I hope I can encourage others to engage with sustainability projects, discussions and aim for it to make a personal contribution to your life’. This goal still holds true today and my role this year has helped me realise some of the goals I set out in the beginning. I have been able to engage students in discussions about sustainability and offer further insight and information in the process.  Over my term as the student citizenship architect, I have aimed to further the conversation of plastics to fellow students through a film screening, student-led discussion panel and podcast. I have also helped the wonderful sustainability services team in their pursuit to tackle student consumption waste and waste in the local area through various activities this year.

I have gained an incredible insight into what it takes to plan and develop goals into reality. The time and effort it takes to hopefully make a change however big or small. Sustainability to me goes beyond what I study and my personal interests. It is a topic that affects all areas of life, even more so now than ever. My role has allowed me to make some contribution to the dialogue of discussion needed and it is my aim to continue to do so. The University of Leeds Sustainability Service – particularly Amanda have truly helped me shape my journey with vision and more knowledge.

I wish all future Sustainability Architects the best of luck and hope they enjoy the experience as much as I have done.

Nicola

This year I have been privileged to work as one of the Student Sustainability Architects working with the Halls of Residence. My main projects have included setting up food waste recycling in flats at Devonshire Hall and organising two British Heart Foundation (BHF) pop-up shops at the University to encourage students to shop more sustainably (i.e. from charity shops).

I also had the opportunity to take over the University of Leeds Instagram account for a week as everyone was moving out of their accommodation at the end of the year. The main messages were about donating your unwanted items to charity as well as a few top tips on how to make moving out easier. This was a daunting experience, to begin with but also a fantastic opportunity to relay some really important messages to a large audience and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience (once I’d got used to being on camera).

If you’re coming (or coming back) to Leeds in September, on the 30th September the British Heart Foundation will be holding a massive pop-up shop outside the Union building. Buying from charity shops not only raises money for that charity but it is also a much more sustainable (and cheaper!) way of getting all the things that you need for your time at University. Please come along!

Working with the Sustainability Service has been a fantastic experience and I have gained a lot of experience that will no doubt help me in my future career. I am also leaving with a renewed enthusiasm to pursue a career in sustainability. I would like to thank everyone in both sustainability and residential services for this opportunity and for their support. I would strongly encourage anyone wanting to work in sustainability to consider applying to be a Student Sustainability Architect during their time in Leeds.

Rory

During my year as the Blueprint Architect, we have seen some incredible achievements with the launch of Blueprint, Leeds’s new sustainability engagement scheme, taking place in October. We signed up over 30 schools and services to commit to their 5-year Sustainability plan and currently have 7 teams live with their Blueprint’s fully functional. The journey of seeing these teams brought onboard as pilots to trial the scheme, to the point we are at now, with another 7 teams ready for sign off by heads of the department has been a fantastic experience. The reach of Blueprint since its launch is a testament to its’ success which we have had reiterated to us in the positive feedback from talking to teams while carrying out workshops and scoping sessions.

As part of my role we have created a tailormade Sustainability scheme which can be implemented across the whole University, the work I have done with teams developing the consultation process and design of the Blueprint has been particularly satisfying to see the advancements in methods and results of our new programme. The future is bright for Blueprint and we can look forward to bringing on board and running productive workshops with more schools and services to unite the university on joint Sustainability projects.

One of the things I have been involved with this year is aligning the Blueprint scheme with the University’s Sustainability strategy. This has been an opportunity to align the sustainability work of the individual department’s around University to our long term plan in Sustainability. The Blueprint process has also been made into a full team effort, we wrote the Blueprint manual over the course of the year which explains exactly how we carry out the process as well as all the findings and actions we have created from the trial and error over the course of our Blueprint pilots and more recent Blueprints.

The experience has been a long road of learning from mistakes on how to run workshops, how to score impacts and opportunities and interact with teams to maximize our time and benefit to departments. It’s been a pleasure to see through the work which I began, to the point of it being fully operational and functioning. Blueprint has been time-consuming, had ups and downs and been stressful, but most of all I am proud of the work I have contributed to the current project and excited to see where it takes us as a department and the potential for the sector within Sustainability to create bespoke Sustainability planning. It’s a pleasure to sign off from the University after two fantastic years knowing we have created a fabulous new engagement scheme and in the knowledge, my contributions have helped shape what Blueprint has become. Over and out.

Dave

Well, that was quick! It seems like the other day when I was writing a blog at the start of my time as a Student Sustainability Architect and now I am reflecting back over the year.

I joined the team just before the announcement of the university’s pledge to become single-use plastic-free. This was an incredibly ambitious commitment as I soon came to realise. I had two primary tasks over the course of the year – to find out what (and how much) single-use plastic there was on campus, and to discover success stories of people or places that have already introduced initiatives to reduce single-use plastic.

I found that the university uses an incredible amount of single-use plastic – laboratories alone bought over 1 million items from just one of our three main suppliers – but there has already been some amazing work done to eliminate this plastic with the Stage@Leeds becoming single-use plastic-free and 180,000 disposable coffee cups saved through the implementation of the KeepCup system.

This role not only allowed me to help in the fight against unnecessary single-use plastic, it also opened up many more experiences and opportunities. I was lucky enough to present some of my research at the Sustainability Conference, I had access to additional seminars on a variety of professional skills, I took part in climate workshops, and I happily embarrassed myself in an Instagram Live Interview! The range of experiences and development opportunities available was amazing and very enjoyable.

Last but by no means least, I want to thank all of the sustainability team – and particularly my great supervisors Thom and Lucy – for all their support and enthusiasm (and letting me steal their desks). It was amazing to meet a group of people so committed to making the university a better place. Thank you too to Kelly for helping all the Architects throughout the year and good luck to all those Architects for next year!

Chloe

My year as a Sustainability Architect has flown by! I have thoroughly enjoyed it and have both seen a lot behind the scenes in the Sustainability Department of the University, and learnt a lot about how biodiversity is approached when looking at developments on the campus and in the residences.

Over the course of the year, I have surveyed eight of the University’s residential sites- Ellerslie Global Residence, Back of Cromer Terrace, Henry Price Halls, Charles Morris Halls, Lupton Halls, Devonshire Halls, Springfield Mount Residences and Lyddon Hall. These are all very different- from the very traditional grounds of Devonshire which have strong historical links, to the large open courtyard of Lupton, to the individual gardens of Springfield Mount and the small areas of grass around Lyddon. It was interesting and enjoyable to walk around the sites with a base map and mark on the areas of each different habitat I could find.

After converting the data into a digital map, I inputted this information into the Biodiversity Tool, which produces a value for biodiversity for each site. This is an arbitrary number which reflects the size and range of habitats on the site, as well as how good for biodiversity the different habitats are. This is really useful, as if developments take place at the site, it can be resurveyed and a new value calculated, which will allow developers to see if they have met the same standard of biodiversity as previously. Excitingly for me, three of the residential sites had their grounds improved, allowing me to compare the biodiversity values before and after. For each of the sites, the value greatly improved, which proved to me that biodiversity is a key consideration when developments take place at the university.

Using the information I had gathered, I produced Biodiversity Action Plans for each site, which give goals and targets for the sustainability and residential services to take into account in years to come. Suggestions I have put forward for the sites range from conducting an insect survey to building some wetland areas.

This project has improved my ability to identify different species of plants a great deal, as well as being able to categorise habitat types and recognise which ones are particularly beneficial for wildlife. It has been interesting to see biodiversity through the eyes of many different stakeholders, and better understand the challenges that are faced when developing the grounds of the University with biodiversity in mind. I would thoroughly recommend anybody takes the opportunity to be a student architect, as it is a brilliant way to meet new people and do something completely different!

 

Goodbye from this year’s Student Architects – Emma

I have been lucky enough to be one of the University’s Sustainability Architects this year. This opportunity has allowed me to gain a greater insight into the sustainability initiatives at the University, supporting projects with like-minded people, all from different backgrounds but with the same passion and desire to find sustainable solutions to the many challenges we face.

This experience has allowed me to further my knowledge within sustainability and develop valuable professional skills and experience. I found working as a close team and developing ideas together very successful. Team meetings were one of my favorite elements of the role which were always engaging and motivating (a refreshing break from studying!). One of the key things I learnt was that sustainability is a massive challenge within Universities, but I was overwhelmed to see and be involved in the efforts and the progress here at the University of Leeds.

One of my core projects throughout the year, was promoting and encouraging sustainable dissertations to students. This is an area in which I feel there is great scope within the University, and I am excited to see this develop further with some of the ideas we have been working on. One of the suggestions is to create a sustainable dissertation archive on our website. The archive would have a bank of past student’s sustainable dissertations which others could use to gain inspiration and ideas, and contacts for any further support.

The Student Conference on Sustainable Futures is also something I would promote to anyone looking for dissertation inspiration. Sustainable dissertations are something I have become very interested in over the past two years. I believe it is a great opportunity to invest a long period of time into exploring something that can significantly benefit society in some form. I chose to produce a sustainability themed dissertation based on a personal interest and a desire to contribute to sustainability regarding the future of textiles. My research has benefited me as an individual and significantly changed my process as a designer which has opened up a realm of new opportunities for me. By seeking sustainable alternatives, I have found more advanced solutions and more environmentally friendly ways of working. My passion is finding sustainable alternatives to pigments or dyes in coloring textiles, through bio-mimicry (the imitation of nature). I plan to keep researching within this area with the desire of making this a more commercial coloration process. One of the best things I have learnt and been inspired by during my role and my research is that you don’t have to study a directly sustainable degree, everyone can be sustainable and find more sustainable (and more exciting) ways of working within their discipline.

My role as an architect and working with the sustainability team really helped me develop my ideas and gain confidence in presenting my research. I had the opportunity to present my research at the Sustainable Futures Conference which was extremely successful and really built my confidence with public speaking. The conference is a great networking opportunity which I encourage everyone to get involved with.

I am privileged to have been a part of the team for the past year and have thoroughly enjoyed my experience. The sustainability service has an exciting future ahead and I believe it is one of the most valuable services within the University. Many thanks to everyone in the team who has encouraged, supported and inspired my sustainable journey. The experience has been a pivotal step in preparation for my career as a designer, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity.

To end on the most valuable thing I have learnt throughout the year; sustainability brings benefit not sacrifice.

– Emma

Goodbye from this year’s Student Architects – Matt

My time as a Student Sustainability Architect is coming to an end and it seems odd to be reflecting on this year as it’s flown by so quickly!

My primary responsibility for the year was to increase the integration of sustainability in dissertations – in line with the University’s concept of a ‘living lab’ and the Sustainability Strategy theme of Building Knowledge and Capacity. This materialised in the form of the ‘Building Knowledge and Capacity Student Award‘, which rewards students for their brilliant and innovative dissertations in the field of sustainability. I’m thrilled to have been a part of setting this up and hope that, as it grows and develops, students from disciplines that are on the peripheries of the sustainability agenda are encouraged to contribute.

The inaugural Student Conference on Sustainable Futures in February has to be my highlight from this year. It was such a vibrant and engaging day that I am confident will continue to be hugely successful in the coming years – especially if the amazing catering carries on!

The last things to do are to thank the team at the University’s Sustainability Service – particularly Josh and Claire, whose enthusiasm and tireless work has made it a joy to work with – and to say good luck to next year’s Architects who I’m sure will continue to do great work and be agents for change.

– Matt