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One Elmwood – Queen's University’s new sustainable student union


In September 2022, the new One Elmwood building was completed at Queen’s University. This building is a step towards the University’s goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040

The One Elmwood Building houses a new student union, replacing the former building that had been in use for over 50 years since its opening in 1967. Located in the centre of the university’s campus, the 11,000-square-metre hub hosts the student union and provides facilities like lounges, bars and spaces for events and student societies. 

The new One Elmwood building is an example of how Queen’s University is working towards achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by undertaking a range of measures to increase energy efficiency and reduce embodied carbon in construction projects across the estate. The building’s operational energy was reduced using fritted glass to minimise solar gain on the main elevations, passive ventilation in the form of automated opening vents, an energy efficient mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery, photovoltaic solar panels installed on the roof, LED light fittings, and a sedum green roof.  


  • Fritted Glass 

  • Reduced solar gain, lowering energy needs for cooling 

  • Increased visibility for birds, reducing collisions 

  • Passive Ventilation 

  • Reduced carbon emissions 

  • Lower energy bills 

  • Improved indoor air quality 

  • Photovoltaic Solar Panels 

  • Reduced carbon emissions 

  • Lower energy bills 

  • Sedum Green Roof 

  • Absorb rainwater, reduce runoff 

  • Provide insulation, saving energy 

  • Create habitat for wildlife, increasing biodiversity 

  • Enhance the aesthetics and well-being of people 

  • Sedums are drought-tolerant, low-maintenance plants  

  • LEDs 

  • Energy efficient 

  • Longer operational life than other light sources 

Areas of Impact 

  • Built Environment 

  • Renewable Energy 

  • Carbon Footprint Reduction  

  • Energy Efficiency 

  • Social Engagement  

Future Plans 

Key interventions for construction and capital projects will include:  

  • Prioritising the re-use, retrofit and refurbishment of existing buildings over demolition and construction of new buildings.  

  • Developing a sustainable design guide for construction projects, includes minimum requirements for all construction projects. 

  • Setting design stage carbon reduction targets and enhanced sustainability criteria for each project, embedding Passivhaus, embodied carbon, and circular economy principles in specifications.  

  • Developing a sustainable construction policy that requires capital works projects to undertake a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).  

  • Collaborating with other Estates professionals, procurement consortia and contractors to stimulate action in supply chains to reduce scope 3 carbon emissions.  

  • Investigating and investing in a transition to net zero supply chains wherever possible. 

More Information 

For more information on the One Elmwood Building and Queen’s University’s sustainability plans go to Sustainability | About | Queen's University Belfast ( 

Estates Manager (Sustainable Construction) at Queen’s University Belfast: Nathan Campbell