Utrecht University a little darker

Turn off the lights! On Saturday 25 March, it is the sixteenth time households and companies all over the world are asked to turn off their lights between 8.30 pm and 9.30 pm. With this initiative, the World Wide Fund for Nature raises awareness for nature on Earth. So what does the university do to achieve reduction and sustainability of lighting on campus? And what can still be improved?

At Utrecht University a lot of people work on sustainability and energy issues in many different ways. In research and education, but also in business operation. Including sustainable catering , waste separation , future-proof buildings , enhancing biodiversity on and around the campus (also see: Meet the nocturnal animals of Utrecht Science Park ), circular procurement , reducing the CO2 footprint , efficient use of water, energy saving and transition and new travel policy.

All sounds great, but to get back to lighting: why do some Utrecht University buildings still have lights on in the evening and at night?

Peter Prins , Advisor on Energy and Sustainability: Lights are indeed turned off as much as possible, but some education buildings and for instance libraries are still open in the evening. Additionally at some laboratories the lights stay on because the research conducted there can’t be stopped and continues 24 hours a day. Besides these cases - and emergency and surveillance lights that are not allowed to be turned off - we’re unfortunately also dealing with lights that stay on due to staff carelessness.

Which steps is Utrecht University taking to achieve reduction and sustainability of lighting?

Peter: In the maintenance planning for the coming years, among other things, it is determined that lights that have to be replaced will be replaced by LED lights. Lights will also automatically go on and off with the help of sensors as much as possible. Some buildings have already fully switched to LED lighting, complete with daylight arrangements and proximity detection. The lighting of the logos on the Van Unnik building and the Buys Ballot building has also been replaced by LED light sources and is now connected to timer switches: between 11 pm and 5 am, the lights are switched off.

It has to become an automatic reflex to, for instance, turn off lights, monitors and heaters.

Furthermore, we work on awareness and on changes in behaviour for staff in various ways (such as the campaign ’ Turn the switch’ ). It has to become an automatic reflex to, for instance, turn off lights, monitors and heaters.

And what about the outdoor spaces at Utrecht Science Park?

Peter: Utrecht University’s public lighting and sport-fields lighting have almost completely been replaced with LED lights. Some areas, such as parking spaces, are not owned by the university, but by the municipality. We are in consultation with the municipality of Utrecht in order to reduce lighting and increase sustainability there as much as possible as well. A limiting factor for reducing lighting there is social safety.

Only light what is necessary, when it is necessary and no more than is necessary

Jaime Loupatty , Project Leader of Area Development: The university indeed collaborates closely with the municipality concerning lighting of public spaces and since 2017 it operates by the principle: ’only light what is necessary, when it is necessary and no more than is necessary.’ For instance, we use lights that shine upwards as little as possible.

Darker and more sustainable step by step

We’re definitely not there yet, but reduction and sustainability of light - and sustainability in general - have our full attention, says Lysanne van der Lem , Manager of the Sustainability Office. On 25 March between 8.30 pm and 9.30 pm, we will switch off the lighting of the logo on our Buys Ballot building*, but the goal is much bigger and more structural than this excellent Earth Hour initiative: step by step a darker and darker and a more sustainable Utrecht University.

Do you have any tips, questions or remarks? Please let us know via duurzaamheid@uu.nl.

Logo at the Van Unnik building

Every year during Earth Hour, the lighted logo on the Van Unnik building is also switched off an extra hour by a manual switch on the roof. However, due to construction work this switch can’t be reached at the moment. So the light there will, like on other days, go out at 11 pm.