Targeting Excellence at the University of Oxford


Tom Heel

The Network team were delighted to welcome the University of Oxford on board this summer. The hundreds of buildings in their estate include historic gems like the Bodleian Library and the Ashmolean Museum as well as a theatre designed by Sir Christopher Wren. We catch up with Tom Heel, their Sustainable Building Officer, to find out how the Network has been of use so far in helping to make these buildings Fit for the Future.


A joined up approach


The University of Oxford joined the Fit for the Future Network in June. We wanted to link up with others who are working with the BREEAM scheme for assessing the sustainability of construction projects, and were specifically interested in talking to people whose buildings weren’t performing as well as predicted. Under this scheme, the University had targeted an ‘Excellent’ rating since 2009. This had been difficult for us to realise on refurbishment projects, however, due largely to the historic nature of many buildings within the estate.

The University of Oxford Bodleian Library

© Ed Webster The Bodleian Library

After a shout-out in the Network’s monthly update, we were linked with the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the very people who have developed and administer the BREEAM scheme.


A visit to Oxford


Representatives from the BRE arranged a visit to Oxford. The day was all about discussing the university’s experiences with the scheme over the last 5 years and working out a way forward. BRE also presented the draft of their new refurbishment methodology. Its upcoming release had been on our radar for some time, and we were keen to find out more about it.


©Tejvan Pettinger the Sheldonian Theatre


Where next?


During the visit, we found that the new scheme has considerable benefits in providing a more flexible and nuanced framework for listed and heritage buildings, which could be a great help for us in the future.


We have accepted the BRE’s offer of support to run two projects as pilot assessments under the draft scheme.  Collaboration on these projects is now underway, and the connections made through the Network will serve to foster a longer term dialogue and working relationship between the University and the BRE.


Partnerships like this are a big part of what the Network is about. You can read more success stories like this in the Case Studies section of the site and become a part of it by joining the Network.