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New buildings will be smart and sustainable

How will Masaryk University develop as an institution? That is the topic of the second part in the series on the university’s Strategic Plan for 2021-2028.

The Strategic Plan of Masaryk University is a key document laying out the institution’s further development. Among other things, it describes how the university plans to develop its infrastructure and the principles it wishes to promote. In the years to come, several new buildings should be built and a long-term sustainability drive will reach all areas of operation.

During the next seven years, Masaryk University plans to spend approximately CZK 7.5 billion (about € 300 million before tax) on building new premises and renovating the existing buildings. Some projects have already commenced, others are yet to begin.

“First of all, we are set to complete SIMU+ this year, which is a large development project encompassing several simulation centres at various faculties. The largest of them, SIMU LF, started operating in autumn last year. A new recording studio (with barrier-free access and acoustic insulation) will be built at the Faculty of Arts, while a simulation track will be constructed at the Faculty of Education. In the Poříčí complex, a new canteen will be built and we will also start building a superstructure containing an art studio,” recounts Richard Hubl of the MU Bursar’s Office.

Bohunice campus expansion

A renovation of a part of the Faculty of Informatics complex will require another CZK 500 million and should be completed in 2023.

The eastern part of the Vinařská street complex will see an expansion of student dormitories. An initial study of the project should be completed this year and it will include an auditorium as well as a foreign languages teaching centre.

The plan for further development of the Bohunice campus is a chapter of its own. A key project to be built right opposite from SIMU LF consists of a row of new buildings that will host the Faculty of Pharmacy after it moves to the campus. This will enable better cooperation and information sharing in education and collaborative science projects with teams from the faculties of medicine and science, as well as from CEITEC. The development is to be finished by 2025.

Next year, final work on completing sport infrastructure at the Faculty of Sports Studies should begin with the construction of a multifunctional sports complex. A new university centre with a canteen should also be completed by 2024.

The Strategic Plan also includes moving the Institute of Computer Science to new dedicated premises.

Besides the aforementioned large projects, the university will also implement smaller investment projects with costs under one hundred million Czech crowns. For each of the seven years of the next planning period, the amount of approx. CZK 60 million has been earmarked for projects that will be specified based on current needs.

Environmentally-sound development and operation

For each of the aforementioned new projects, the MU will seek to obtain green building certificates. The construction and operation of the buildings should thus be as sustainable as possible. At the campus, an extensive project for construction of cisterns for rainwater management is underway. Carbon footprint and waste management will also receive lots of attention.

“Following the example set by leading world universities, we will develop strategies for individual areas such as waste management in order to increase sustainability in a systematic manner. We will also create a Board of Sustainable Development at Masaryk University that will include leading experts from across the university,” explains Hubl.

Incorporating “smart” solutions is easier with new buildings and the whole campus and some other university buildings are doing well in this regard. The situation is more difficult with older buildings in the city centre.

Nevertheless, university buildings have completed, for the most part, the replacement of windows and introduced central heating. Some have even been linked to energy performance and other building data monitoring systems. Introducing more greenery to suitable surfaces and roofs is also being considered.

The university already has a register of surfaces available in all its buildings and plots of land. However, the university owns about 150 buildings, so planned development and changes in this regard are more of a long-term project. The aim is to accurately monitor the operational parameters of all the buildings in order to keep improving their energy performance and promote responsible and sustainable user behaviour.

Sustainability as a guiding principle

Sustainability is not an isolated problem associated exclusively with new buildings. It is more of a guiding principle which will eventually be reflected in all areas of the university’s operations. According to the Strategic Plan, sustainable development should become part of the university’s organisational culture and – in an ideal case – be something all students and employees can identify with.

“We want to make it clear that we are meeting the sustainability challenge head on. We wish to focus on topics and areas linked to the university’s mission where we can make a difference. In these areas, we want to be a trendsetter and a partner to other institutions in the region and the country as a whole,” explained Marta Valešová, MU Bursar.

Indeed, a large part of the funding obtained by Masaryk University from the Ministry of Education for the implementation of its Strategic Plan should be used to promote principles enabling long-term sustainable development. The money will be invested for example in IT equipment enabling precise effectiveness measurement of the measures adopted. A more detailed strategy for public procurement will also be developed.

However, the university management is not trying to centralise the sustainability initiative too much. On the contrary: each individual employee and student should be enabled to contribute to the university’s sustainable development through his or her own actions. An institution so large and diverse as the university requires a coordinated approach more than anything else.

The next eight years will thus be marked not only by more construction and infrastructure development, but also by improving efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of MU operations.