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Phil Mangnall: "Studying in a safe, healthy, comfortable environment will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression"

Influencing sustainable generations

Implementing energy efficient heating can influence sustainability-minded generations and save on energy costs, says Phil Mangnall

Posted by Stephanie Broad | July 29, 2015 | Sustainability

Ensuring a new era of sustainability means influencing the generations that will live it – influencing a natural inclination to being sympathetic towards nature. How schools, universities and other educational institutions set about professing this notion could be the key to achieving it.

By now we are all aware of the government’s 2050 target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels. To do so, it is imperative that we prevent current and future generations from inheriting our energy inefficient habits.   

Simply incorporating the importance of energy efficiency into educational programmes can only go so far. It is contradictory to do so if the institutions themselves are fuel-hungry hubs within their communities.

Dispelling financial fears

Alongside the long-term social influence of implementing these measures, financial benefits should further incentivise decision makers to take up any recommended energy-efficiency measures.

Schools spend more on energy than any other expense, with the exception of personnel costs. The Carbon Trust estimates that UK schools can reduce energy costs by around £44 million per year, and in doing so prevent 625,000 tonnes of CO₂ from entering the atmosphere.

On an individual basis, a high-performance school can expect to save up to 30% on energy costs when compared to a more conventional one. Thus far, hesitancy has stemmed from a belief that ‘going green’ is too great a challenge in the context of tight budgetary restraints. But implementing sustainable measures can be considerably cheaper in upfront costs when compared to traditional building practices, and they continue to contribute towards cost savings year on year over the life time of the building.

Energy performance is one of the few expenses that can be significantly reduced without sacrificing on the quality of the education or the welfare of the students. In fact, it can even help to enhance their educational experiences – money saved is money that can be set aside for alternative initiatives that hold greater educational value.

Is HVAC the answer?

It is not feasible to expect every school in the country to tear down its premises and start building a new BREEAM-stamped facility from scratch. Commercial building occupants can let temporary office space; residential property owners can live elsewhere. This quite simply, for the most part, is not an option for schools and their students.

But there are non-disruptive energy efficiency strategies that can be implemented. The most prominent example would be through the specification of heating and ventilation systems.

The Carbon Trust also estimates that in schools, 58% of energy use is committed to space heating through fossil fuels; similarly in further and higher education, when the percentage rises to 62%.

A combination of a renewable heating system and low mass, low water content radiators is perhaps the most accessible option for lowering these staggering percentages. Even without installing a heat pump or biomass renewable system, low-mass radiators can make noticeable differences to a school’s energy consumption – as much as 16% in energy savings compared to the traditional steel-panelled choice.

A low-water content radiator uses less water for the same output and therefore less energy to heat. Less water also means quick to respond, thus ensuring better comfort with lower energy bills.

Happy, healthy, comfortable classes

For students, studying in a safe, healthy, comfortable environment will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression.

Sustainable ventilation can significantly drop CO₂ emissions whilst providing excellent standards of indoor air quality (IAQ). CO₂ isn’t just a long-term problem for our environment, it is a short-term problem for our health too.

For end users, it might be a fair assumption that reducing a reliance on mechanical ventilation systems would be a means to cutting CO₂. However, the evidence suggests the opposite is true. Natural ventilation is deceptively inefficient, particular in often larger premises such as schools. It is unregulated and will quite often conflict with the school’s heating system. One classroom might be too hot; another might be too cold.

Demand-controlled ventilation is the answer, both in terms of energy usage and occupant comfort. It can monitor and measure air quality in the room and cut in only as required. Because of this, it can be as much as 23% more efficient than a reliance on natural ventilation.

Green education

Schools, colleges and universities are trusted community institutions, and can have a genuine impact in building sustainable communities.

By implementing sustainable practices in their buildings, they fulfil their duty towards their local economies – acting as stewards of efficiency and making effective use of public funding.

Additionally, because schools are built for long-term use and are so publicly accessible, they provide a wide exposure to green technologies and can be used to evaluate their performance over a substantial period of time.

Our country’s educators can endorse the notion of sustainability to the roots of society. Achieving this means educating themselves on their energy use, and seeking specialists who can advise on what heating systems and products can help them improve.

Phil Mangnall is National Sales Manager of Jaga Heating Products UK 

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