Cypriot University is European example of “sustainable neighborhood”

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At first glance, Cyprus does not excel in planning. There is a lot of fun building without the need for a zoning plan or appearing to be involved. An early exception is the campus of the University of Cyprus in the capital Nicosia (200,000 inhabitants).

Master plan

The area, located 6 kilometers south of the city center, was developed with a vision about 25 years ago. Quite unusual for Cyprus, but possibly even beyond that, says Costas Charalambous. He works in the technical department of the university. “The master plan was far ahead of its time,” says a 48-year-old mechanical engineer. “We had already integrated green technologies, which were available at the time, into the plan. And that at a time when sustainability, energy efficiency and climate change were not the right themes. ”

Cypriot University
Costas Charalambous under the dome of the library © E. Kieckens

The master plan, developed in collaboration with the London architectural firm ADP, is based on a central, park-like space around which all other activities are organized into zones. Due to the continued growth of the university (now seven thousand students), the development of the campus is an ongoing process.

energy center

In terms of sustainability, the campus was given a central heating and cooling system. “In Northern Europe, it may not be worldwide, but for Cypriot standards it was very special,” says Charalambous. The energy center is located far away and supplies the various buildings underground. Due to its scale, such a system is more efficient and also contributes to the aesthetics. None of the university buildings are equipped with chimneys or fuel storage.

Another energy center will soon be built to meet the increased energy needs. Electricity is primarily produced from fossil fuels. It is common in Cyprus. Fuel and other oil provide about ninety percent of the country’s energy needs.

The campus has had a small solar park since its inception. In addition, solar cells have been installed on a large part of the roofs. The total solar energy produced is 440 kilowatts. Not much – that corresponds to about twenty-one of the university’s total energy needs.

To Cyprus

But it does not stop there. Possibly in a year’s time, the first part of a new, large solar park, which will generate five megawatts, will be put into operation. However, there is a Cypriot peculiarity about it. The solar park will be located in the buffer zone between southern and northern Cyprus. This zone was established by the UN in 1974 after the invasion of Turkey, which eventually led to the separation of the island into two parts: the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which, however, is not recognized by the international community … The European Union remedies therefore go south.

Cypriot University
Checkpoint in the heart of Nicosia © E. Kieckens

Although tensions between the two Cyprus have eased almost fifty years later, the buffer zone still exists. Nicosia is also still split in two with several checkpoints in the best tradition of a Cold War. Small farms are also allowed in the buffer zone, and ‘thus’ also that solar energy is harvested. Charalambous is still awaiting the final permit to allow construction companies to install the 20,000 solar panels.

European loans

After the construction of the solar park and the completion of four buildings that are now under construction, the second phase begins. Eventually the university, possibly in 2025 has access to ten megawatts. Even if it is cloudy, at night and in the winter months, there will be uninterrupted electricity available thanks to the energy storage batteries supplied to the campus. “The project was made possible in part by favorable loans granted by the European Investment Bank and the European Development Bank,” said Vassos Olympios, head of the technical department, which also heads the campus expansion. The university can also rely on some financial assistance from the European Recovery Fund.

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Cypriot University
Master plan for campus. The new solar park appears in the white area to the right © Cyprus University

The campus will have charging infrastructure on the edge of the plot, where private individuals can fill up their electric cars. Now, electric cars are a rarity on the island, but in a few years, Cyprus will become a Tesla country if we are to believe the plans from the recovery plan. It just shows that the university is preparing for the future. This is also evident from the idea of ​​offering motorists the opportunity to connect their batteries to the university network by not only sucking energy but also releasing it. It goes by the concept Adapt to the webwhere power from vehicle batteries is fed into the grid.

thermal energy

Incidentally, the sun will not be the only source of sustainably produced energy. Two new faculty buildings are under construction. Under that terrain, 220 holes have been drilled to a depth of 125 meters. The thermal energy will be supplied to the campus network. The campus will therefore be self-sufficient in energy within a few years. “It’s like one sustainable neighborhood (‘sustainable neighborhood’, ed.), which fits perfectly into the EU’s objectives “, says Charalambous. One can safely call campus an energy island.

Cypriot University
Building the Faculty of Medicine © E. Kieckens

In addition to generating renewable energy itself, the University of Cyprus also has high standards of energy efficiency. This is done by applying ‘green’ criteria to design competitions. For example, the Cyprus Cancer Research Institute, which is also currently being built on campus, has been certified according to the latest LEED guidelines for sustainable construction.

Pritzker architect

That sustainable building goes hand in hand with aesthetic building is clear in Nicosia. The buildings on campus are generally lightweight constructions and it is not just traditional concrete that matters. One building, the library, stands out. It comes from the drawing board of none other than Jean Nouvel, winner of the Pritzker Prize, the highest prize for architects. With a façade of green textiles, the building looks like a hill (and thus fits in well with the environment) and is dominated on the inside by a glass dome. Light is reflected via heliostats against a pointed pillar that supports the dome. The emitted natural light falls on all floors of study rooms and shelving. You can also consider it as the Cypriot symbol of a sustainable future.

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