Staff exchange between the university of Haute-Alsace and Freiburg

Around 15 people from Germany and France took part in the staff exchange programme

Energy Saving and Efficiency: Issues that Occupy the Universities of Freiburg and Haute-Alsace

Prof Speck guides the group through the botanical garden

Prof. Thomas Speck, Director of the Botanic Garden, greeted his French colleagues from the Université de Haute-Alsace (Mulhouse/Colmar) with the words “mon français est très rouille” (my French is very rusty), only to continue his introduction in fluent French. The colleagues were from energy and facility management as well as international relations departments at the French university and had registered for this one-day staff exchange.

Biomimetic innovation: Energy optimisation inspired by nature

Bionic shading of the greenhouse

The group of roughly 15 people was expertly guided through the Botanic Garden in Freiburg by Prof. Speck under a bright blue winter sky. The high demand for energy and water is a major challenge for all botanic gardens. Through double glazing, which optimises energy, the CO2 emissions of the greenhouse have been drastically reduced. Speck said that the energy budget has improved by 85%. The director of the Botanic Garden in Freiburg, who is also Professor of Functional Morphology and Biomimetics, explained how he and his team find inspiration in nature to develop technological solutions that will achieve greater energy efficiency. .

Bird of paradise

Biomimetic technologies for shading the glass buildings not only increase energy efficiency; they also improve working conditions for employees. Currently, two biomimetic innovations are being used to create shade: one was inspired by an underwater plant, and the other by the bird of paradise flower. The biomimetic shading ensures that no air conditioning is necessary, even when there is intense sunlight. Speck also explained that the Botanic Garden collaborates with psychologists to study the effects of biomimetic innovations on the well-being of the garden’s employees.

After visiting the greenhouse, the group toured the livMatS pavilion, which was constructed out of natural materials using the latest digital technologies. It is the result of a cooperation between two clusters of excellence at the Universities of Freiburg and Stuttgart. Inspired by cactus wood and built with renewable flax fibres, this event venue weighs less than 1.5 tons and is therefore lighter than a SUV. Its lightweight building method is ground-breaking for urban densification projects, because often no further levels can be added on top of an existing foundation because its structure would not be able to support a solid, massive construction.

livMatS Pavillon

The mobility of staff is a key aspect of the Eucor Strategy 2030

In order to digest all the information, the group went to eat at the university cafeteria for lunch. After their lunch break, Katharina Aly, Director of the International Office, welcomed the French guests at the administrative building of the University of Freiburg, where she applauded not only the academic exchange, but also the staff exchange between the different Eucor Universities. “The exchange of staff is a key aspect of the new Eucor Strategy 2030,” said Aly.  

In the following discussion about property management, energy purchasing, energy efficiency, and heat generation, the heads of these departments presented their results and the cost-saving measures taken over the last few years. The Université de Haute-Alsace (UHA) was the first university to become ISO 50 001 certified in France in 2014. This means that the university has an institutionalised sustainable energy management system, which is reviewed every three years to ensure that it is continuing to work toward the goal of achieving greater energy efficiency. Anne Mangano, Head of the Direction de la Gestion du Patrimoine Immobilier at the UHA, underlined that this is not only about making architectural changes; it also has much to do with sensitising employees. She explained this by telling an anecdote: “Whenever the semester starts in late summer, temperatures go down temporarily, but employees still come to work wearing their summer clothes, so they feel cold. About 10 years ago, we received a lot of complaints from employees asking us to turn on the heat. After talking to the UHA’s president, we sent a mail to everyone informing them that the heating costs for one week equal the annual salary of a Category C administrative employee. We asked them to rather put on a warmer jumper, so that we could perhaps employ a new colleague.” The fact that there have been no more complaints since then speaks in favour of this communicative action.

At the Université de Haute-Alsace, there is also a sustainability consultant in each department. Kamal Mouheb, the consultant at the Learning Centre of the UHA, explained: “We regularly take part in trainings on issues regarding sustainability. Each consultant is asked to sensitise and inform their team. Today was very inspiring. I’ll be taking a lot of things home with me and sharing them with my colleagues. I particularly like the idea of mixed staff/student working groups, which have the merit of investing and remunerating students on the issue of sustainable development.”

From the James Bond tunnel to the Christmas market

After the discussion, the group visited the University of Freiburg’s so-called James Bond tunnel, an underground infrastructure passageway. The participants then rounded off the day at the Christmas market in Freiburg.

Staff mobility with Eucor

Eucor – The European Campus supports the cross-border exchange of staff between its member universities. Whether alone or in a group, staff of the five universities can look over the shoulder of their colleagues in a neighbouring country for anywhere from one day to one week. If you are interested, you can contact the person below to plan your staff exchange to another member university of Eucor:

Back to the news overview