3 minute read

Episode 606: The Future of Sustainable Campuses with TAFE Queensland Gold Coast

7/11/2023 9:00:00 AM

Sustainability is an increasingly present topic in higher education. Today’s students value sustainability in their lives - on and off campus. Karen Dickinson, General Manager of TAFE Queensland Gold Coast, recently joined the FOCUS podcast to share how their new Robina Campus has taken a holistic approach to sustainability since its inception. From finding best practices to how sustainability is infused into every aspect of the campus, Robina serves as a model for comprehensive sustainability in higher education.

TAFE Queensland Gold Coast

TAFE (Technical and Further Education) Queensland Gold Coast boasts 22,000 students and 650 staff across six campuses along the Gold Coast of Australia. As the general manager, Dickinson oversees operations of the campus, students and staff. Around four years ago, the construction of the new Robina Campus opened the opportunity to push the envelope with sustainability in higher ed and challenge themselves to create a low carbon footprint campus.

New plans of action

As Dickinson researched best practices for sustainable campuses around the world, she saw a lack of holistic approaches. While the institutions were doing their part to be environmentally friendly, not many were infusing sustainability into every aspect of their schools.

“What I wanted to do with the Robina Campus was build a campus that would incorporate sustainability into all aspects of running a campus,” says Dickinson.

TAFE Queensland Gold Coast decided they needed to gather all the best practices to be activated in one complete approach that not only delivered sustainable operations, but also educates students on how to be good stewards of the environment inside and outside of the classroom.

The Robina Campus

Sustainability is in the DNA of the Robina Campus, starting with the build. Designers structured the large atrium using salvaged timbers. They chose carpets made from recycled materials and placed environmentally-focused art lining the walls. Skateboard and scooter storage, electric vehicle charging, organic composting areas, and recycling bins are scattered across the campus.

The classroom space at Robina has also been optimized for resource management. Each room is multi-purpose, outfitted with the latest technology used to livestream and record classes. Sustainability is even infused into the curriculum, and students have weekly opportunities to take part in eco-friendly activities.

Another large part of Robina’s holistic approach is obtaining sustainable or local resources for other on-campus offerings. Local farms supply food to the cafe and restaurant, which only use biodegradable utensils and dishes. Additionally, all suppliers the institution engages with are evaluated on their commitments to sustainability and being carbon neutral before being selected.

Data in sustainability

Robina generates 50% of their power usage from 300 solar panels, putting 12-15% back on the grid. They monitor all power, water, and wastage through Power BI. This data is used to weed out inefficiencies in resource management and help build better processes to fill those gaps.

Green your campus

While the road to a sustainable campus can be long, Robina serves as a model for greener possibilities. Dickinson attributes much of the institution’s success to engaging staff and local consulting early in the planning process. TAFE Queensland Gold Coast’s support and investment in the new campus’ mission also made the green transition as smooth as possible.

Dickinson believes that the key to greening your campus is through the holistic approach, but it cannot be done without the support of your institution and staff. With Robina’s growing admission numbers and overall student satisfaction, it’s clear to see that sustainable campuses have a future in higher education.