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Sustainable use of resources requires the University library to close at night

Low utilization at night - Significant reduction in energy consumption and a reduction in costs of 300,000 euros – Library in the Collegiate Building IV will also be open during the exam period

Freiburg, Sep 13, 2018

Sustainable use of resources requires the University library to close at night

Photo: Sandra Meyndt

Closing the University library (UB) between the hours of midnight and 7am is both sensible and necessary for sustainability reasons. The result has been a review of the cost-benefit analysis and the use of resources in its current 24/7 operation.

The outstanding response received by the new UB with up to 14,000 daily visitors and its 24/7 operation 365 days a year has led to a significant increase in resource consumption and costs. Although the new structure has significantly reduced energy consumption compared to the old building due to its environmentally friendly technology, a 24/7 operation and the high demand have resulted in increased cleaning, energy and security costs.

An investigation into the number of nighttime visitors has now shown that user numbers drop drastically between midnight and 7am. In some cases there are no more than 30 people in the nine-story building. As a result, the rectorate has decided to close the UB starting October 1, 2018 between midnight and 7am like all comparable university libraries in Germany. The annual costs can be reduced by 300.000 euros through this effort.

Rector Prof. Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer explains the decision: “We should be using public funds to make reading areas available when they are needed. Part of the reduction in the cost of night-time accommodation is intended to provide additional reading space for our students and to open the large reading room of the Collegiate Building IV on the main campus twice a year for a total of 16 weekends during exam periods, which will help students more than a barely used UB at night.”

Further details:

The UB’s construction enabled a significant reduction in energy costs. The new UB thus clearly fulfills the energy requirements that underlay its planning, as illustrated by a comparison of the consumption values per operating hour:






Old building

(before 2008)



New building

(starting July 2015)






684 kWh



318 kWh






1.157 kWh



224 kWh






3 m3



1 m3

Despite the energy optimization compared to the old building, the energy and management costs have risen significantly.

There are multiple reasons for it:

  1. The price of electricity, heating and water has risen considerably since 2008. The same applies for trash management and labor.
  2. The number of visitors to the new building are much higher than for the old building. From 2006 through 2008, the number of annual visitors was around 1.65 million. After the building reopened, that number skyrocketed to more than 3 million and the trend is still rising.
  3. It should also be noted that the opening hours were extended to a daily 24-hour operation for members of the university (8,736 operating hours compared to 4,576 operating hours in the old UB), which required employing a security service at night and, due to the building’s high-capacity usage, also during the day.

Currently, the annual management costs are distributed in the new building as follows:






685,000 euros






325,000 euros






503,000 euros






139,000 euros






40,000 euros



Trash management



15,000 euros






1,707,000 euros

The operation of the old pre-2008 UB under the current conditions - opening times, user numbers - would be more expensive than the operation of the new building alone in terms of energy costs by more than 1.1 million euros.

Closing the building for seven hours at night will reduce annual operating costs (energy costs and security) by an estimated 300,000 euros, according to a calculation by the Administrative Department Building Management, Procurement and Sustainable Operations Department.