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Our holistic approach to sustainability

At Queen Margaret University, we have placed sustainability at the very core of our vision, taking a joined up approach to the social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainable development.

Our holistic approach not only takes account of our immediate campus environment and everyday behaviour, but also extends to curriculum development and the impact of our teaching and research across the world.

Sustainability is embedded in the everyday work of the University, led by the Principal and senior management team, and delivered through an organisational structure where academics responsible for research and teaching take key decisions jointly with the team responsible for the physical environment.

Our campus, recognised as an exemplar in sustainability within the higher education sector nationally and internationally, is a physical example of our commitment to sustainability and is the foundation upon which our vision and strategy for sustainability continue to develop.

Our sustainable campus

Situated on the east side of Edinburgh, by Musselburgh, our innovative campus set a new benchmark in sustainable design when it opened in 2007.

The building design maximises energy efficiency and the landscape design encourages biodiversity. Overall, the new campus building project is regarded as one of Scotland’s most sustainable – having gained a BREEAM* rating of “excellent” (the highest BREEAM score of any university in the UK).

The campus design is focussed on a simple low carbon, low energy passive design approach avoiding so called “green bling”. It has achieved the very highest sustainability awards and recognition without any impact on the cost of the build – one of the benefits of adopting an all round approach to going green.

A number of leading environmental technologies are being employed at the site including biomass heating, thin-client computer technology and a sustainable urban drainage system.

From the very outset, the new campus development was designed around modern agendas and technologies of higher education. We set out to “develop a sustainable community for learning and life”. The approach was to go beyond worthy statements that often fail to deliver, and to avoid sustainability gimmicks that often result in unnecessary building and maintenance costs.

When developing the campus, we called on an independent sustainability consultant (Gaia) to help us define the parameters of the sustainability project and to ensure that sustainability would be fully embraced throughout the design process. The design team were also selected on the basis of sustainability experience.

In developing the new campus, our approach to sustainability focused around:

• using resources effectively
• creating healthy environments
• promoting biodiversity
• managing the process
• supporting communities
• minimising pollution

Targets were set in achieving:

• a low carbon footprint
• biodiversity and a quality external environment
• indoor air quality and daylight
• green travel

Our approach to sustainability has resulted in strong performance statistics.

When on campus, you can identify sustainability construction features by following the ‘sustainability trail’ signage.

*What is BREAAM

For over a decade, the Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) has been used to assess the environmental performance of both new and existing buildings. It is regarded by the UK's construction and property sectors as the measure of best practice in environmental design and management.


We recognise that outstanding leadership is crucial if we are to achieve lasting and widespread sustainability. We were an early signatory of the Universities and Colleges Climate Commitment for Scotland (UCCCFs) and have a five year climate change action plan which targets substantive improvement over all functions of the institution related to sustainability. We have a sustainability committee to drive and promote sustainability practice. There is explicit reference to sustainability in the University’s strategic plan. On campus, we host the Scottish office of the Environmental Association for University and Colleges (EAUC).


A number of degree programmes have been introduced at QMU that have a specific focus on sustainable practices, and others have developed modules on specific elements of sustainability, for example sustainable development and social justice. Our ambition is to create graduates that spread both sustainable practice and thinking as they progress throughout their careers and personal lives.

We believe that QMU will be held as an exemplar in sustainability for years to come because of our view that the delivery of a low carbon campus was not an end in itself, but just the first step towards becoming a truly sustainable institution.

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last modified 04/08/16 Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh EH21 6UU - Tel: +44 (0)131 474 0000
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