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In the Blog

ICT Building post-occupancy survey report

Posted on Tuesday, June 7th, 2016 at 1:06 pm by Ralph Pina

The IT Division took occupancy of its new, green building in October 2015. The event was preceded by months of interventions aimed at preparing staff for the change, not only of location, but also of work style and culture. After the dust and the emotions had settled, we ran a post-occupancy survey in April of this year. The raw, aggregate results may be viewed here:

Post-occupancy ICT building survey report (pdf)

There are many interesting conclusions to be made, one of which is that although concerns over personal and storage space were vocally expressed before the move, the vast majority of staff is quite satisfied.

We intend to repeat the survey in future in order to “take the temperature” and track whether the operation of the building, as an integral part of our work system, is improving.


New IT building: What is a Place of Work?

Posted on Thursday, December 12th, 2013 at 8:43 am by Ralph Pina

Our fairly intensive participation in the design process for the new IT building got me thinking about what a place of work is and why a knowledge New IT building NW perspectiveorganisation, like an IT division, would have one. The new building is essentially an office building: it will not house technical infrastructure such as the data centre, but will be the place of work for the division’s engineers, system administrators, technicians, architects, analysts, software developers, managers, etc.

Besides the admittedly exciting “green” design features, such as the vertical garden, optimal orientation, solar PV panels, rainwater harvesting, bicycle store, and various other efficiency elements that will make it far more energy-efficient  and sustainable than other buildings of its type, the other intriguing possibility that it presents is the opportunity to influence change in the culture of the IT division. The catalyst for this “change of culture” could be the university’s new norms that require that all new office buildings be “open plan”. For an organisation that has become accustomed to being housed for the past 25 years in what can only be described as a “rabbit warren” of cellular offices leading off dark, desolate corridors, this is a radical departure. There seems to be much trepidation and negativity about our “open plan” future, some of which at least is simply related to humans’ default discomfort with change of any sort 1. (more…)


Solar PV energy for new IT building?

Posted on Friday, September 20th, 2013 at 5:28 pm by Ralph Pina

Construction on the IT Division’s new building commences early in 2014. In line with the goal of constructing and operating a “green” building, the IT Division has, along with the Facilities Management Division, ensured that the design incorporates the necessary for solar PV arrays on the roof and integration into the energy supply. IT has requested the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES) to model solar power generation for the building and to calculate the financial pay back period.

The intention is that, based on the models, the IT Division will approach the Finance Division for a loan to incorporate solar energy generation into the building construction project.


New electricity meters in the main data centre

Posted on Friday, September 20th, 2013 at 5:15 pm by Ralph Pina

The IT Division, with the help of Facilities Management, has installed two new energy meters in the main data centre (DC) that will enable us to monitor energy consumed by all equipment within the DC, including the cooling and ventilation systems. The meters will enable us to calculate the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of the DC, which is the ratio of energy consumed by all equipment to that consumed by computing and networking equipment.

The DC’s PUE is in the range 2 to 2.5 depending on external ambient temperature. This means that for every watt going to the computers, another watt or more is going to cooling and ventilation equipment. Various interventions will be undertaken to reduce PUE and minimise energy consumption. At present the DC consumes between 1.1 and 1.3 GWh per annum and the energy bill is now the responsibility of the IT Division.

Under the new electricity accounting regime, the monetary value of energy savings will accrue to the IT Division for one year, and can be invested in further energy efficiency.


SU donates computers to local schools

Posted on Thursday, June 13th, 2013 at 8:46 am by Ralph Pina

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is the mantra of sustainability. In the spirit of “reuse” Stellenbosch University’s Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, in concert with Matie Community Service and the IT Division, recently refurbished and donated 180 computers to local schools. Read more here …


SU e-Waste update

Posted on Thursday, May 9th, 2013 at 4:29 pm by Ralph Pina

The IT Division’s e-waste programme continues to quietly do the right thing behind the scenes. During the period July 2012 to April 2013, Cape e-Waste Recyclers, our e-waste contractors, removed the following items from the on-campus e-waste depot for responsible disposal and recycling:

  • 325 Computers
  • 162 Printers and Scanners
  • 269 Monitors
  • 3 boxes of general e-waste.

The procedures by which IT assets should be decommissioned and placed into the e-waste stream are detailed on the IT Help wiki: e-Waste Procedures.

Die prosedures om IT-bates uit diens te haal en in die e-afval stroom te plaas is op die IT Help wiki beskikbaare-Afval Prosedures.


UCT follows Stellenbosch U with rideshare cloud service

Posted on Monday, January 28th, 2013 at 5:15 pm by Ralph Pina

Rumour has it that our peers across the Cape Flats have also signed up with FindaLift’s rideshare service. UCT was the pioneer in launching an online  rideshare – or lift club – service for students and staff with RideLink some years ago. The software behind RideLink was specially developed for UCT at the time. It now appears that they have decided to migrate to FindaLift’s cloud service.

FindaLift offers a closed rideshare system to institutions such as universities that allows students and staff to advertise and find lifts to, from and on campus while helping to ensure their safety and privacy. Stellenbosch University launched its rideshare service, as part of its Mobility Plan which seeks to create more sustainable campus transport options, last year. Maties FindaLift – http://maties.findalift.co.za – may be accessed by current students and staff and requires a valid university email address to register with.

Although Stellenbosch is still regarded as a residential campus, the reality is that a significant proportion of the student body commutes to campus on a daily basis.


SU launches rideshare “cloud” service

Posted on Friday, September 7th, 2012 at 8:53 pm by Ralph Pina

Here is an example of how information technology can be leveraged to contribute to a sustainable campus. A lift club (or rideshare) scheme has been launched on campus that uses a cloud-based, closed rideshare service from FindaLift.

FindaLift screenshot

Stellenbosch University encourages the combined use of a range of transport options, including walking, cycling, campus shuttle services, lift clubs and public transport, to establish a sustainable and environmentally friendly campus and town, as part of its comprehensive Matie Mobility Master Plan.

With Maties FindaLift students and staff can advertise and find lifts using a Google Maps interface. Access to the free service  is limited to users who possess a valid Stellenbosch University email address. The fact that the service is closed to the university community goes some way to assuaging safety concerns and ensuring a trusted environment.

The service merely puts members of the community who have rides to share into contact with members who need lifts. But it is important to read the terms and conditions and the excellent FAQs.

The interesting thing about Maties FindaLift is that its use is not limited to students and staff on the main Stellenbosch campus, but could be used in the vicinity of the Bellville Park, Tygerberg, Saldanha and Worcester campuses as well – and potentially “anywhere in the world” where groups of Maties may be interested in sharing lifts.


The Mobility Plan and Sustainable IT

Posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 at 1:45 pm by Ralph Pina

What on earth has the newly unveiled university Mobility Plan to do with information and communications technology? Quite a bit actually. It is another example of how ICT can be an enabler for sustainability elsewhere on campus – the third leg of Sustainable IT.



Sustainability or Green Reporting

Posted on Friday, December 9th, 2011 at 10:35 am by Ralph Pina

Information technology can enable the achievement of sustainability goals on campus in many ways, including by providing sustainability assessment and reporting tools. More than two years ago when students initiated and drove the population of a “sustainability scorecard”  with the purpose of conducting a sustainability assessment and setting the bar, information technology played an insignificant role. The scorecard was presented to management but never published and there has been no subsequent assessment.

Recently, however, the request came to the IT Division to investigate the local market for carbon footprint assessment and reporting tools. A very brief report on sustainability reporting (pdf) was prepared and submitted. It briefly explores the world of sustainability and integrated reporting, considers reporting frameworks and standards (such as the GHG Protocol, Global Reporting Initiative, STARS (a framework for higher education) etc.), and reviews a sample of sustainability management suites and tools.

Finally it recommends that:

…any choice of a sustainability application suite should be delayed until the university’s sustainability strategy has been determined.

… that it is necessary for the university to select and implement a sustainability assessment and reporting framework in order to identify sustainability indicators, help it develop its strategy, assess progress, report to stakeholders and benchmark against similar institutions.

The recommended assessment and reporting framework is the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) Sustainability, Tracking and Rating System (STARS). Stellenbosch University is an international member of AASHE.