Green awards – Richard Kelly from DCU

Richard Kelly, Dublin City University

Richard Kelly is the Estates Manager for Dublin City University and has responsibility for water and energy management, strategic planning, conservation and decarbonisation.

Questions for Richard Kelly

I started working in Dublin City University back in October 1995, quite a while ago now! Over 25 years which is hard to believe.

DCU is a fantastic place to work, especially in terms of its responsibility to the environment and its ambitious and aggressive plans to conserve and decarbonise our energy and water supplies. The vision, mission and values of the university match the same ambitions of our Estates Utilities Management team and this allows DCU to lead from the front in terms of our energy and water environmental goals and allows us to focus on creative, innovative and cost effective solutions fully knowing that we are supported by our senior executive management team.

Thanks very much. I was very very proud to accept the award on behalf of DCU.

Taking part in the Irish Water Stewardship programme was a big part of our water conservation planning in DCU. The programme helped me formulate a university wide water policy, a water stewardship charter, a conservation plan, an ambitious set of strategic and operational targets, both short term and long term, and provided assistance on how best to manage and monitor the results. It was a Plan-Do-Check-Act programme that was delivered with inspiration and encouragement to all of us who took part. Special thanks to Irish Water for inviting DCU to participate and for Central Solutions for running the programme.

DCU began its water conservation programme in 2016. From the initial conception of a specific in-house estates utilities management team, to the certification of both water and energy management through the international standard ISO 50001, we took a strategic approach to water conservation enjoying cumulative savings over the past number of years. With significant projects in planning to really drive our strategic, ambitious and aggressive goals, DCU is positioning itself well to further drive energy and water management performance over the coming years.

The key features of how DCU manage and conserve water are the combination of a structured, motivated, forward thinking, strategic and innovative utilities management plan. It combines the crucial operational elements needed to manage water and energy on a daily basis, while ensuring the strategic side focuses on sustaining consumption, cost and carbon into the future; and through the use of government supports ensures quality delivery of these goals with economic prowess. This all-encompassing approach has culminated in significant successes and with a continued brave and bold vision, the Estates Office plan to take DCU to the next level in sustainability and conservation management over the coming years.

DCU has enjoyed success throughout our various water conservation programmes, where we surpassed our aggressive 2020 targets with a year to spare!

In general terms our overall water consumption across all campuses reduced from well over 250,000 m3 at incorporation in 2016, to 225,000 m3 in 2018, and to just over 200,000m3 in 2019. These results in turn generated significant year on year financial savings.

In 2020 our water consumption decreased by over 50% but this reduction was due to the COVID-19 lockdown measures. As such 2019 will be our comparison baseline going forward in terms of setting our goals for 2030; an aggressive and ambitious target of 100,000m3.

In terms of our Water Consumption per Person (WCP), the consumption within the DCU community decreased from:

  • 13,943 litres/person in 2017, to
  • 12,309 litres/person in 2018, to
  • 10,662 litres/person in 2019.

Our Water Utilisation Index (WUI) performance comparisons are improving year on year also:

  • 2017 - 1.07m3/m2
  • 2018 - 0.91m3/m2
  • 2019 - 0.82 m3/m2

A particular challenge was to identify and target significant water users across our multi campus university, which houses close on 90 buildings, and then how could we allow our community to fully understand our planned approach and then deliver real and sustainable results. In other words where was all the water going and how could we show this in a manner that would not just work but also inspire interest?

The answer was the design of a multi-campus water balance graphic to not only address the challenges but to also show and then target specific activities to aggressively reduce consumption in specific and prioritised areas. This simple but very useful water balance graphic enabled DCU to learn and understand how, where and when we use water and which then facilitated our conservation programming, targeting and monitoring.

To help with the challenge and to give our entire community an idea of how much water we use, we developed an idea of a notional wall around the Croke Park pitch, where in 2016 if we had piped all of our waste water in a single pipe to GAA Headquarters it would have required a 20 metre high wall to contain the overall volume of water we flushed down the drains. In 2018 the wall height reduced to 17.6 metres high and in 2019 the height reduced again to just over 15.3 metres. Our 2030 target is a 10 metre high wall! Let’s see how close we can get to this target.

Our water balance has generated a lot of interest and has allowed us all to visualise our savings and get everybody on board. And most importantly get everybody thinking about conserving water!