Combating climate change and natural poverty are the most important actions

We are working to combat climate change

Our goal is for our campuses to be the most responsible campuses in Europe by 2030. As part of this goal, our operations must be carbon neutral in 2030. We are moving towards this goal by repeating the three-stage method: 1) we determine our emissions; 2) we reduce emissions as much as possible; and 3) we will compensate for the remaining emissions.

The company’s footprint is calculated for each calendar year, and it was first made for 2013. In the carbon footprints for 2013–2017, we focused on the carbon footprint caused by energy consumption. When carbon neutrality became a topic in the debate, we found that we had to include more factors in the calculation. For 2018, the calculation included for the first time the climate impacts of construction, water consumption, travel and refrigerants, among other things.

Our carbon footprint consists of heating, the construction of new buildings and renovation of existing ones, waste materials, maintenance repairs, electricity, refrigerants, water, and our personnel’s travel and office supplies. Our carbon footprint for 2020 was 35,529 tonnes of CO2e or 27.9 kg CO2e / gross m2. In 2019, our carbon footprint was 39,780 tonnes CO2e, so the decrease was 11%. In seven years, we have reduced our carbon footprint by 47%.

To reduce the carbon footprint, we have spent most of the time working with energy efficiency. We were already rewarded for our participation in the real estate energy efficiency agreement in the previous period of 2010–2016, and we will also be involved in the 2017–2025 period. Our ambitious goal is to save 7.5 per cent in heating energy consumption by 2025. Saving in the consumption of heating energy is important, because it accounts for approximately 70% of the emissions from our operations. In addition to energy efficiency, we have drawn attention to the origin of energy, both together with energy companies and by producing renewable energy ourselves at the campuses and exploring opportunities. In 2020, a large part of our buildings was connected to the demand response market for electricity to enable more renewable electricity generation in the grid.

In 2020, we took a big leap forward by implementing emission compensation equivalent to the entire carbon footprint of the company. Our campuses are therefore already carbon neutral. We will continue the work to reduce emissions so that by 2030 we will no longer even have to compensate for it. For 2020, our compensation concerned four projects in Uganda, Panama, Cambodia and Finland. Our contribution to reducing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is nearly 40,000 equivalent tonnes of carbon dioxide. The projects include afforesting by taking biodiversity into account, acquiring energy-efficient boilers to reduce wood burning, creating jobs for organic cocoa plantations, increasing the supply of clean drinking water with microbiological water purification filters, and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to biocarbon.

Environmental certifications assist the ecological sustainability of our operations

Construction and real estate maintenance are a large part of our operations. By understanding their environmental impacts, we will make better choices to support sustainable development in the future.

Property development is an essential aspect of a property owner’s environmental responsibility. Property development involves making far-reaching decisions and creating guidelines for environmentally friendly operations. The investment decision is also the stage in a building’s life cycle when it is possible to make significant leaps forward. In assessing the life cycle environmental impacts of today’s energy efficient buildings, the environmental impacts of the construction phase are of greater relative significance than before. The energy consumed by construction and the environmental impacts of the manufacture and transport of construction materials are significant, which is why they deserve attention. Also important are efficient logistics and sensible choices of construction locations.

We apply the BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) environmental classification system in assessing new construction projects and major renovation projects. It helps in constructing buildings that are as environmentally friendly as possible. Aurum, to be completed for Åbo Akademi University and the University of Turku in 2021, is the most extensive project in our history. In November 2020, Aurum received an unusually high score for its plans – 77.7%. Only two buildings – the extension of Helsinki Airport Terminal 2 and the Lidl Logistics centre in Järvenpää – have received a higher score in Finland. The project is also partly financed through the first Green Bond in Finland.

In 2020, we received the first BREEAM In-Use environmental certifications for existing buildings. Ten Tampere-based buildings were the first to receive them. They achieved ratings of 46–64.8% in the Building Management section and ratings of 55.8–77.6% in the Asset section. The rating of 77.6% achieved by the Arvo2 building of Kauppi Campus in the Asset section is clearly the best result achieved by a Finnish building. In the coming years, we will continue with the certification of existing buildings at an annual rate of some 10 buildings.

Supporting biodiversity deserves attention

The depletion of biodiversity is an ecological challenge on a par with climate change. In the summer of 2020, we produced nature assessments for all our large properties, a total of 270 hectares. The purpose of the assessments is to create possibilities for more comprehensive consideration of nature values in campus-related activities such as development, construction, maintenance and the daily use of campuses. A particular characteristic is the identification and development of natural values in recently built environments. The existing natural values were reported, and guidance on the future management and development of the areas was provided in the work. We also see this as an opportunity to improve the comfort of campuses with natural values.

During 2020, support for biodiversity already reached practical measures when diverse meadows were established to replace less biodiverse grasslands in Joensuu in cooperation with the University of Eastern Finland, the City of Joensuu and Elli, a provider of student rental residences.

Energy efficiency in exceptional circumstances as well

We manage property assets with a combined gross area of some 1.3 million square metres. Our property assets are extensive, and the environmental impacts of energy consumption are therefore an integral part of our ecological sustainability. As the owner of properties, it is important that we pay attention to energy efficiency and to the origin of the energy we use.

2020 was also very exceptional from the perspective of energy efficiency due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the pandemic situation in buildings, it was necessary to be able to react to the changing use from mid-March onwards to avoid wasting energy. The aim was to optimise the consumption of heating energy by investigating with the users which buildings have remained largely empty, and which buildings have continued to operate at least partially. The indoor temperature of empty buildings was reduced, and the volume of ventilation was reduced from full to partial power. No changes were made to the ventilation or heating of buildings in which activities continued.

In 2020, the average electricity consumption of the properties owned by SYK was 102.1 kWh, a decrease of 9% compared to the previous year. The weather-adjusted consumption of heating energy was 147.8 kWh, a decrease of 14% compared to 2019. Water consumption was 190.3 litres per gross square metre, which means a decrease of 31% compared to the previous year. This means that all the consumption figures had fallen due to the coronavirus and adjustments made in exceptional circumstances.

The solar power systems located at the Lappeenranta, Kuopio and Jyväskylä campuses, as well as the Kauppi and Hervanta campuses in Tampere, generated a total of 417 MWh of solar power in 2020. This is 0.33% of all the electrical energy consumed at our campuses.

Regarding the demand response for energy, we worked during the year on both electricity and district heating to allow even more environmentally friendly modes of production to be introduced. When piloting the demand response for district heating at Seminaarinmäki in Jyväskylä, we discovered that when requested by the energy company, the buildings were able to temporarily reduce their heating power by about a third without significant changes in conditions. We connected hundreds of devices in buildings to the demand response market to adjust their electricity consumption to the needs of the national grid.

The volume of waste produced at campuses decreased by 34% compared to 2019. Mixed and energy waste decreased by 36%, and recycled waste by 32%. The amount of waste produced had already been declining, and the coronavirus pandemic accelerated this trend. In 2020, several campuses started collecting consumer packages made of plastic, and 10 tonnes of them were recycled.

Emissions by source in 2020: 35 529 tCO2e

  • Heating 69,6 %
  • New construction and renovation 20,2 %
  • Maintenance 3,0 %
  • Waste 2,2 %
  • Electricity 1,5 %
  • Maintenance repairs 1,4 %
  • Refrigerants 1,4 %
  • Water 0,4 %
  • Own activity by SYK’s personnel 0,1 %
  • Cleaning 0,0 %

Ecological sustainability of operations in 2016–2020


CO235 529397634099355 00157 050tons of CO2
CO227,931,932,043,145,9kg CO2/brm2
Consumption of purchased energy
Heating, measured156 308182 321173 146170 217169 353MWh
Heating, weather-adjusted147,8154,9144,7147,9141,2kWh/brm2
Electricity127 628140 970138 520131 089129 835MWh
Produced energy
Solar power produced at our campuses417415235,5238210MWh
Water consumption
Total amount228 020331 849330 935332 585348 541m3
Relative to floor area190,3263,9273,4263,4276,1litres/brm2
Measuring/evaluating the environmental impacts of buildings
Number of BREEAM certified buildings, cumulative total96432build.
Number of BREEAM certified plans, cumulative total1310975number
Number of BREEAM certified plans, cumulative total161614119number
Share of environmentally certified BREEAM buildings of all newly constructed buildings100100100100100%
Adherence to TETS energy efficiency agreement100100100100100%
Total waste volume2 288335937733945,84211,2tons
Waste recycling rate48,950,250,753,451,8%

Volumes and recycling of waste fractions in 2016–2020


Recycling total11181641191321062183tons
Energy waste240347373394439tons
Mixed waste9231480148714461589tons

Waste treatment costs


Specific cost of waste, all waste194183€/tonne
Specific cost of waste, mixed waste and energy waste269253€/tonne

The campuses of the University of Turku are developing towards carbon neutrality

The sustainability goals of the University of Turku include carbon-neutral operations by 2025. The university has taken a step closer to achieving the goal by defining its carbon footprint.

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© Suomen Yliopistokiinteistöt Oy 2020