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Quantitative Assessment of Energy Consumption at the Urban Scale: the Ecological Footprint of a University Campus
This paper explores the consumption-based ecological footprint method and its application aiming at performing a quantitative assessment of the sustainability of a university campus. The goal is to inform the planning decision-making process and evaluate the socio-technical solutions implemented in local urban settings to reduce energy consumption, decrease environmental impacts and improve the quality of life of the campus inhabitants. The case study taken for the analysis is the Politecnico di Torino, a 33,000-student-Higher-Education Institution (HEI) located in the north of Italy. Data were collected from different departments and administrative units of the Politecnico di Torino to estimate emissions and identify the pressure exerted by the campus activities on the local ecosystem during a reference year (2016). Six main categories of consumption were identified and associated with their ecological footprint, i.e., the amount of land needed to produce the required resources and to absorb the generated waste, including CO2emissions. Total footprint resulted in being of 6,200 gha: about the half of the total city area, meaning that the campus would need a 310 times larger area to be self-sufficient. Transports had the highest share, with 49.4% out of the total campus impact, whereas energy covered 40.1%. Food, waste, land use and water counted respectively for 5.7%, 3.7%, 0.7%, and 0.5%. This study presents the most comprehensive analysis to date of the environmental impact associated with an Italian HEI. This methodology and its development for the specific case of HEIs contributes to gain a better understanding of the overall impact of a university campus, as well as to create thresholds for comparative analysis, decision-making tools, and policy-making toreduce the carbon footprint of the educational sector.