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More sustainable IT

laptop in grass

Energy management and sustainability are key areas of focus for the University IT service. Moreover, we work in partnership with Advanced Research Computing @ Cardiff (ARCCA) to deliver joined-up, more sustainable IT systems and solutions across the spectrum of IT needs.

A raft of energy saving initiatives has been implemented, saving the University energy, resources and money, while also reducing our carbon emissions.


The Cardiff University System for PC Power-saving (CUSPP)

The University IT Service has implemented an innovative system which automatically powers down PCs which are running the University standard image of Windows, 15 minutes after they are logged out. The system has saved the University an estimated £100,000 per year in energy costs and around 500 tonnes of CO2 every year since it was implemented in 2007.

The PCs power down to standby, where they use almost no power, but can quickly be revived again when needed. The timings of the powerdown have been agreed with the academic schools, and the system has been installed on approximately 9000 PCs around the campus, across both our staff and open access environments. The system was developed by staff in University IT using specially-written scripts, together with standard Microsoft and Novell software. Unlike proprietary solutions, this system was implemented essentially free of charge.

With the implementation of the new Windows 7 Managed Desktop Service, we have further enhanced the power saving by activating it during the user's logged on session: turning off the monitor after 20 minutes, the hard disk after 30 minutes and putting the system into standby after 60 minutes. But again the system will quickly revive when it is needed, and we have worked with our service users to ensure essential computational work is not interrupted.

Flat screen monitors

Flat screen monitors have been introduced across campus. These consume a maximum of around 35 watts of power – much less than the 75 watts used by the former larger monitors, saving the University tens of thousands of pounds per year and hundreds of tonnes of CO2.

Purchasing and recommending greener PCs

Our new standard workstation recommendations are based on dual core CPUs. These PCs consume around half the energy of the earlier standard 2008 workstation. Similar figures also apply to newer servers. We also recommend more efficient power supplies for purchase. Please contact us for more details.

For large numbers of PCs for open access use (in University open access IT rooms and libraries), the suppliers remove all packaging for re-use as part of the order.

The most recent University PC tendering process included eight environmental criteria including the international standard EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) and Energy Star. Environmental criteria are also considered during the selection process for network equipment.

Screensavers and monitor power management in the standard Windows image

Some screensavers use a surprisingly large amount of additional  power – sometimes up to around 20W per workstation – while the machine is switched on but not being used. However, screensavers generally give little or no benefit when used with modern PC monitors. In the standard University Windows 7 "office" image, we have set the monitor to turn off after 20 minutes to save energy and have therefore disabled the screensaver.

For open access PCs, the system automatically logs the user out after 30 minutes of inactivity, which saves power and also makes the PC available to other users. See also the Take a Break web pages for more information on this facility. 

All Apple computers already have default power saving settings that will turn off the display and put systems to sleep after 10 minutes of inactivity. Even before these measures are triggered, systems will also actively scale processor performance, dim the display and spin-down hard disks. 

Mac users should keep all these default settings in place to maximise power efficiency.

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Server virtualisation

Moving University IT services to a much smaller number of physical servers is saving physical hardware (and space) and has saved an estimated £370,000 between 2009-2012 in energy costs, or around £100,000 and 500 tonnes of CO2 per year. There will be an additional saving of almost £800,000 in hardware costs, as well as major reductions in landfill and in the embodied energy of the hardware in manufacture, shipping and disposal.

Planet Filestore

Planet Filestore is an internationally-leading project to investigate more sustainable data storage, including storage which is more energy efficient and requires less physical space. The Planet Filestore project, funded by JISC, has now produced its final report. 


StorC (Storage Calculator) is a follow-on project to Planet Filestore, also funded by JISC. The StorC project has created a web-based modelling tool designed to help as many institutions as possible calculate the energy and financial savings that could be derived from greener file storage technology, such as that demonstrated in the Planet Filestore project. 

ARCCA datacentre
The Redwood datacentre

The ARCCA supercomputer, and the datacentre which house it, are designed to maximise efficiency and minimise electricity consumption in almost every component. The datacentre has also been recognised so far in three environmental award commendations and nominations

The datacentre was designed in partnership between ARCCA, University IT, and the University's Estates division, and procured in partnership with the University's Procurement service.

Highly efficient uninterruptable power supplies

University IT service has deployed highly efficient uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) to maximise efficiency in powering the University's central IT servers.

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More sustainable ways of working

We seek to maximise the positive impact of the University's use of IT to support more sustainable modes of working, and reduce impact elsewhere. Some examples are given below.

Videoconferencing and Teleconferencing

University IT provides the University's central Videoconferencing studios which enable virtual meetings - saving time, money and reducing transport needs. Research by HEEPI in 2012 also shows that videoconferencing also supports better work-life balance and enables participation for people who are unable to travel and stay overnight (supporting the equality agenda).

You can also hold virtual meetings from your desktop:

Learning Central

University IT provides Learning Central with support from the Student Registry:

  • Handouts and slides are now posted on Learning Central and are available for students to view online during their whole time at the University, negating the need for the lecturer to duplicate and print them out year on year
  • Learning Central enables online submission of essays, reducing the need for travel and printing
  • Formative tests can be carried out online which means that students do not need to be on campus to take tests and there is no need to print out questions and model answers each year
  • It is also possible for students to discuss their work either live or asynchronously from their residences using the Learning Central collaboration tools
  • Finally, the Learning Central Mobile App enables access to Learning Central from anywhere, without having to travel to a desktop computer, lecture theatre or library.
Lecture theatre pool rooms

University IT are installing remote pool room management across Cathays and Heath campuses, which enables greatly speeded up and improved support to staff using IT and audio/visual equipment in pool rooms. It will also enable us to monitor the status of equipment and remotely power the data projectors down if necessary.

Increasingly, pool room projectors are set to turn off at a set time to avoid projectors being left on overnight or over the weekend. They are also being fitted with movement detectors (PIRs) provided by Estates Division, so that the lights are automatically turned off if no movement is detected after a set period.

Other equipment is being upgraded with sustainability features, including Energy Star-compliant audio amplifiers which not only use less power when they are running, but also automatically go into ultra low power standby (less than one watt) when not in use.

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recycling icon
Recycling and reducing waste

We seek to reuse PCs and PC components wherever practicable. We are also working with our IT suppliers and waste contractors to recycle as much as possible of our IT waste according to the WEEE regulations. Our main University IT WEEE contractor (Computer Recyclers UK) recycles over 99% of the equipment that they collect from us. 

Xchange service - more sustainable procurement

Xchange is a free-to-use system for buying and selling surplus equipment, locally and nationally across all UK Higher and Further Education Institutions, and Research Councils. This service not only helps UK institutions to save money, it also reduces the amount of waste going to landfill, and reduces the use of manufacturing energy and resources.

Xchange was developed by JISC Procureweb, while Procureweb was hosted by the IT and Library services at Cardiff University.

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Ethical initiatives

University IT has also taken initiatives in the wider sustainability and ethical arena, for example:

  • Our standard tender document template includes a section on Environmental considerations
  • We have also donated PCs (which were no longer of the required University specification) to schools in the developing world, where they have been well-used
  • There are now over 70 members of the ethical, Fairtrade, environmentally sustainable and socially responsible "BS6008 Tea Club" within the department.
Knowledge transfer

Wherever possible, we seek the reciprocal sharing of good practice in order to improve everyone's environmental impact. Initiatives include