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"With temperatures set to fall over winter, schools could also look at replacing their boilers with modern condensing boilers to reduce their energy output"

Taking the chill out of winter bills

Tony Cahill says key decision makers can create sustainable community hubs by working with likeminded companies

Posted by Stephanie Broad | November 16, 2015 | Sustainability

As we head towards Christmas, during what is the longest term of the academic year, there are several challenges facing key decision makers which affect the day-to-day running of their establishments.

Pupils are still adjusting to a new academic year, teachers are rolling out a new curriculum, exam season is fast approaching and schools are under mounting pressure to take on new pupils, particular in areas where the population is booming. It was recently reported that between 2010 and 2015, the number of primary school pupils has increased by 24%.

Faced with such challenges, key figures within the education sector may not have the time or resources to address how much they are spending on their energy bills or consider how to make their establishment more sustainable. They may be too preoccupied with the day-to-day to focus on refurbishing their building to make it a greener, more cost effective community space in the long run.

Interestingly, once the stats on energy consumption are they reveal key areas that could be easily tackled. For example, figures from the Carbon Trust show that heating accounts for 58% of a typical UK school’s total energy use - and 45% of its total energy spend. This highlights the importance of prioritising cost-effective insulation technologies during the colder months.

For the educational establishments that do place importance on energy efficiency, issues surrounding fulfilment of such projects during school hours may prove a sticking point. With increasing pressure from the government to make savings, senior education figures need additional support to guide them through prospective or on-going refurbishment projects.

Working with a facilities management company involves working alongside design, technology and energy management experts who can provide advice on even the smallest issues. As such, key decision makers in the education sector can benefit from a secondary perspective on their building’s design, efficiency and sustainability from teams, who are experts in their fields.

There are a number of ways in which a facilities management team can improve an establishment’s energy efficiency. The school in question might look at installing low power consumption LED light bulbs, which require just 10% of the electricity used by an incandescent bulb but produce the same amount of light. With temperatures set to fall over winter, schools could also look at replacing their boilers with modern condensing boilers to reduce their energy output.

It is often assumed that renewable energy sources such as these come at a cost, but there is now funding available for the education sector that can help with this, in the form of The Salix Programme. Funded by the Department for Education, Salix launched a schools programme in 2012 providing 100% interest-free loans specifically for schools in England to ensure the ongoing improvement of energy efficiency. Results so far have been positive, with extended compliance criteria of an eight-year payback and £200/tCO2 lifetime for energy efficiency projects.  Facilities management companies can assist their clients with this programme and implementing energy efficient measures such as these can have demonstrable benefits - the Carbon Trust estimates that UK schools could reduce energy costs by around £44 million per year.

The tangible difference a refurbishment project can make to a school’s social value is another crucial factor behind working with partners. Schools are often at the heart of their communities, so the works required could include extending the use of the building for other activities outside of school opening times – generating additional value for families within the community.

To conclude, facilities management companies play an invaluable role in relieving the pressure upon key decision makers within the education sector. A good partner will deliver an efficient, high quality service which gives extra peace of mind to its customers while giving a school greater social value, profitability and sustainability.

Tony Cahill is executive director at Vivark, part of the First Ark Group.    

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