Saving Through Sustainability

  • Saving Through Sustainability

After a blissful Indian summer, winter is most definitely within sight – and chilly autumnal days are already preparing us for the harshest season of the year. It’s that time again, when heating systems click and whirr into action… and energy officers and management teams at school have to start thinking the bills that will be generated as a result.

Much as the rising cost of energy has had a negative impact on the bank balances of homeowners, the rapid increase in fuel bills has had an even greater effect on our schools, colleges and universities. While the average household energy bill is around £1,400 per year, schools and colleges’ bills can approach upwards of £100,000 to more than £1 million pounds.

Energy prices have risen 20% since 2009 and recently published National Grid forecasts suggest the price of electricity could double over the next two decades. This is significant and means a greater proportion of money that could have been allocated to learning will soon be required simply for keeping the lights on.

Prepared to save

It will come as no surprise that learning facilities – which generally consist of a number of buildings – have high fuel demands. Each classroom needs to be suitably well lit and heated to a temperature that’s conducive to learning. The Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999 prescribe that classrooms in England and Wales should be at least 18°C. With average winter UK temperatures hovering around the 5°C mark, these heating systems have their work cut out to maintain a suitably ambient temperature for knowledge transfer.

The summer months and accompanying heatwave provide a welcome relief for homeowners as central heating systems are switched off, natural light replaces artificial and electric heaters are packed away and relegated to the attic. For those holding the purse strings at educational institutions across the country, however, summer presents an important opportunity to prepare the facilities for the next cohort of learners in September. While students enjoyed their six weeks’ holiday this year, many places of study used this ‘down time’ to implement the latest energy efficient technology in time for winter.

Such is the complex usage of rooms and corridors within schools that much of the latest energy efficient technology is perfectly suited to reducing energy wastage in a bustling learning environment. Upgrading to more efficient light fittings, for example, can result in up to a 70% saving on lighting energy consumption, while lighting sensors can ensure that lights are only turned on when they are required, meaning empty rooms can rest in darkness when not in use. Insulation can make sure that heat generated within the classroom isn’t lost to the outside world and controls on radiators can ensure rooms are kept to the required temperatures. Heating zoning technology is also very useful for schools with after schools activities as it allows heating to only be supplied to those areas in use.

Help at hand

Building regulations dictate that most modern facilities are equipped with such technology. The reality, however, is that many places of learning are older, more ‘lived-in’ facilities (shall we say),that typically contain outdated and inefficient equipment.

A large number of those schools, colleges and universities that have been installing efficiency measures like these are doing so with the support of an interest-free government loan. This interest-free financing is available through Salix Finance to any public sector organisation that wishes to pursue energy efficient upgrades. Such is the efficiency of the latest energy saving technology that the average payback for projects is less than five years, and, (depending on the technology lifespan) the projects typically generate savings for the schools for a further fifteen to twenty years. These fuel bill savings can then be spent where they are needed most; providing an education for our learners.