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National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh

National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh

Implementation of a Carbon Management Plan which has reduced emissions and produced significant savings in running costs


The National Library of Scotland (NLS), was established in 1925, with collections of world class importance that are made available to the public through its reading rooms, exhibitions and events. The collection includes 15 million books and manuscripts, two million maps and atlases and more than 32,000 films and videos. The NLS has five buildings in Edinburgh, and a further two in Glasgow. These buildings include public areas and offices, as well as large storage centres which are temperature and humidity controlled to preserve the items in the collection.

NLS staff members participated in the TUC (Trade Union Congress) Green Workplaces project, which made them aware of the need to control energy costs and the importance of reducing environmental impact. Following this, NLS engaged with Carbon Trust’s Carbon Management Plan in 2009. The management plan was agreed with senior management in 2010 – with aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% by the 2014/2015 financial year.


Over a period of six months, the ‘Green NLS Team’ compiled of staff from different departments within the library, developed the Carbon Management Plan in partnership with Carbon Trust.

The first step was to quantify all carbon emissions and related costs associated with all NLS’s activities including energy use, waste generation, water consumption and travel. The use of energy within buildings, particularly electricity, was the main source of emissions and presented the greatest potential for savings to be made.

The Carbon Management Plan, comprised 15 smaller projects covering a range of actions including investment in building services, awareness raising and changes to operational behaviours.  


Building Services

All the items in the NLS collection are stored in environmentally controlled areas, where temperature and humidity are constantly regulated using an air conditioning plant. These storage areas account for nearly 50% of all NLS property. Strict limits are set by the British Standard (BS5454 – Recommendations for the storage and exhibition of archival documents) which meant that building services were running for large periods of time.

Preservation experts worked to identify an alternative approach. A project run by the International Association of Museum Facilities Administrators developed a new risk based approach which allowed NLS staff to set wider acceptable temperature and humidity levels, which lessened the load on the building services equipment and reduced running costs.


A review of lighting within the library was also carried out. Much of the lighting was found to be older, 80 Watt fluorescent lighting. A programme of lighting replacement was carried out, upgrading the existing lighting to newer, more efficient 39 Watt tubes. This replacement lighting also produced less heat than the 80 Watt tubes, which meant that load on air conditioning was reduced.


A new main server room was established to consolidate all digital services for the library. This reduced the amount of equipment that was required to be run, and further reduced the air conditioning requirements.


Staff Engagement

Staff engagement was seen as vital to the success of the Carbon Management Plan. Measures were taken to increase awareness of the impact staff members had on the energy consumption at NLS. Presentations were given about the energy use at the library, providing cost information and simple actions that individuals could adopt.

An ‘Energy Saver of the Week’ award was presented to a member of staff. This presentation included details of the energy saving actions and predicted annual cost and carbon savings resulting from them. These details were circulated to all staff to encourage others to act.

Energy and CO­2 saving presentations have been integrated into annual staff training.  


The Carbon Management programme resulted in CO­­2 emission reductions of 623 tonne per annum, equal to 18.4%. In addition, cost savings of £75,000 per year were realised.

Staff awareness raising resulted in predicted CO2 reductions of 170 tonnes per year, and replacement lighting produced CO2 emission reductions of 27 tonnes per annum. Consolidating the server equipment into one area resulted in CO2 savings of 108 tonnes per annum.


The initial investment in lighting, environmental controls and staff engagement were paid back within one year. Staff engagement is estimated to have saved £24,000 each year, with virtually no initial outlay. Replacements to lighting cost £26,500, with annual savings of £3,900; server consolidation cost £41,500 with annual savings of £15,600.


Additional benefits from upgrading the building services included the reduction in heat generation from old light fittings and additional server equipment, which reduced the load on air conditioning plant.

The success of the carbon reduction actions undertaken at NLS have been recognised by Scottish Government and has been cited in high level documents from Scottish Government and the TUC.


National Library of Scotland

Carbon Trust


Resource Efficient Scotland supported the preparation and presentation of this case study for the Retrofit Scotland website.

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