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Educational Facilities Optimised for Student Wellbeing, Performance and Sustainability

The concept of Smart buildings is being driven by a need for buildings to reduce carbon, reduce costs, and improve occupants’ environment, therefore allowing them to be more productive, prioritising their health and wellbeing. amBX have written a whitepaper on Smart buildings, and how we can expect to see more of them in the future, as our SmartCore technology enables smart buildings with an interoperable control platform. One of the key features is smart lighting control and monitoring, in particular circadian lighting/human-centric lighting.

 

Research published by Vodafone shows that currently, in the UK and EU, buildings are responsible for 36% of overall carbon emissions. There is much that can be done to improve this. Many believe it starts with schools; upgrading and retrofitting, involving students, and educating them about environmentally friendly solutions and how they can have a positive impact now and in the future. Added to the fact that school buildings are rapidly ageing and becoming increasingly inefficient, leading to unnecessary carbon emissions and high utility bills.

 

The Let’s Go Zero campaign states that 60% of the energy used by schools is wasted out-of-hours, and schools in England alone spend £600m per year on energy – the second-largest budget item after staff salaries. By installing Smart Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems that coordinate through the exchange of data to optimise each function’s efficiency also help create smarter buildings. Motion sensors also prevent wasteful cooling, heating and lighting of empty or low utilised spaces. In addition, predictive maintenance through smart technology can eliminate the wasteful replacement and breakdown of a building’s assets.

 

Smart IoT sensors that monitor electricity, gas and water can help Facility Managers identify areas where wastage occurs, and simple changes can be made, which amount to big savings. Combining these sensors with AI and machine learning, presents an opportunity for the building to begin to make these changes and decisions by itself, autonomously saving energy and water. 

 

Therefore, if schools are adopting new smart HVAC systems, it makes sense to also investigate the lighting of the schools. If there is a need to be smarter to reduce costs and emissions, then surely lighting that also benefits students’ health should be considered. In schools, the results of recent research into the effects of applying circadian lighting capabilities and principles show a marked difference in how this type of lighting can deliver compared to conventional lighting set-ups. 

 

Understanding the impact of light on human behaviour has advanced rapidly. It is now possible to use circadian lighting principles easily and cost-effectively. In human beings’ evolution, we have been exposed to artificial light for an extremely short amount of time. However, many of us now spend most of our day under artificial light and until very recently, this lighting has failed to reproduce the light experience for which we are “programmed”. 

 

As well as using lighting to help synchronise the human circadian cycle, it has been found that levels of illuminance are key to cognitive performance. A 2011 study in the Netherlands found that increasing illuminance levels in schools at certain times of day and changing the colour temperature of the lights indicated a positive influence on pupils’ concentration. Researchers found students were more alert and scored higher on their tests when they were in a classroom with 6500K lighting.

 

A further study conducted by Kazan State University in 2015 demonstrated the influence of different lighting types on visual performance. For example, there was a 20% improvement in the performance of the tasks speed during tests where the colour temperature was 5800K in comparison to fluorescent lighting. The number of errors also reduced hugely.

 

SmartCore technology from amBX helps to improve occupant health and wellbeing as it follows the Circadian rhythm, maintaining natural body clocks, by ensuring we receive the right amount, quality, colour, and intensity of light at the right times of the day. The Education sector is one of many currently adopting and embracing smart technology to achieve this and create an environment that allows students to thrive.

 

Bagheri and Hagighi Movahed predicts the global adoption rate of IoE (Internet of Everything) in education will rise from less than 5% in 2013 to 32% by 2022. Critical decisions about the carbon footprint of the built environment must be made if we are to achieve Government net zero carbon targets, and smart technology has a huge role to play in this.

 

ECO Primary School Receives £133k Government Grant

A Lincolnshire primary school has received over £133,000 funding from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme to become more energy efficient.

Kirkby la Thorpe CofE Primary Academy, in Sleaford, were successfully awarded a Government grant to fund a Low Carbon and Sustainability project, which involved installing an Air Source Heat Pump, energy efficient hand dryers, Energy Monitoring and Management.

 

The £1billion Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme provided grants for public sector bodies to fund heat decarbonisation and energy efficiency measures; and the ECO school were triumphant despite an oversubscription and stiff competition from across the country.

 

Katie Gravil, Headteacher at Kirkby la Thorpe CofE Primary Academy, said:

“Our ultimate goal is to improve our carbon footprint and achieve Net Zero, which is why we have already installed Solar PV and upgraded our lighting to LED. The grant has allowed us to advance our efforts even more so, and move away from a fossil-fuelled heating system, in order to become even more efficient. We are really happy with the end results and we couldn’t have done it without the expert advice and support from our Energy Consultants– UK Energy Watch Group.”

 

The carbon savings, 21.54 tonnes of CO2, are equivalent to planting 147 trees. The primary school will also benefit financially from the project, saving £1,177 annually, on their heating bills.

 

UK Energy Watch Group, a specialist Energy Consultancy based in Lancashire, helped the school by carrying out the feasibility study, grant application, contractor tender procurement, project management and on-going energy monitoring.

 

HVAC Technical Solutions Limited were appointed to carry out the mechanical engineering works. They installed the Toshiba VRV systems, two split AC system, central controller system, and stripped out the old plant room, radiators and additional electrical works.

 

Ashley Bullock, Managing Director at UK Energy Watch Group, added: “As a long-standing client of ours, Kirkby la Thorpe understand the crucial role they play in educating their staff and students of the importance of improving their carbon footprint. Now they have done their part to make a difference in the world’s global climate change mission, and as a by-product, they have saved money which is a win-win for them and the environment.”

 

Kirkby la Thorpe Church of England Primary Academy has been previously received an Eco-Schools Green Flag Award.

The Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, managed by the BEIS and delivered by Salix Finance, to date has launched two Phases with a total of £1.75 billion offered to public sector organisations.

Matthew Robinson, Director of HVAC Technical Solutions Limited, commented: “It was a pleasure to help the school start its journey to decarbonise and move onto an electric based heating system. The installation was straight forward and had little impact on the children and teaching staff. We hope they enjoy the efficient heating.”

Stora Enso helps to accelerate sustainable schools from concept to reality

Experts showcase Cambridgeshire wooden school success story with low carbon footprint and improvement of student well-being

 

 Last Thursday, industry experts from the architecture, construction and education industry gathered to discuss how wood can successfully be used as a building material to create sustainable learning environments. Hosted by Stora Enso, in collaboration with The B1M, the webinar showcased the award-winning case study of the Northstowe Learning Community in Cambridgeshire, UK, a 15,000m2 project that utilised Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) to meet sustainability targets and provide an inspiring and healthy space for students.

 

The UK government’s hardening of the carbon emissions reduction target, from 68% to 78% by 2035* puts an increasingly acute focus on how industries can support this ambition. Rory Doak, Business Development Manager UK & Ireland at Stora Enso, noted on the webinar, “the biggest impact [of the Northstowe project] is that there’s nearly 3,000 tons of CO2 stored in the building that’s not getting put back into the atmosphere”. Pair this with the reduction of up to 75% of CO2 emissions that can be achieved using wooden construction methods versus concrete and steel processes, and it’s clear to see how building with wood can contribute to this journey.

 

Also touching on the biophilic design nature of wood, the panellists shared insights on its positive impact on the health and well-being of children as studies have shown that the material can improve concentration and reduce stress. With return to classrooms post-pandemic in motion, this will be an incredibly important factor for educational authorities and construction players to consider.

 

Despite the benefits of wood as a strong, versatile, and sustainable material, the webinar also assessed the barriers to adopting CLT as a construction material. For example, concerns around technical performance exist, as does a miseducation on cost-effectiveness. Dayo ShittuBalogun, Associate at EURBAN, one important enabler of the webinar and official partner from Stora Enso, provided insight: “We’re coming across a lot of risk aversion as people still consider wood construction as a new way of doing things. There is some miseducation on cost. People consider it to be a bit more expensive, but through some benchmarking work we established that if you’re talking in simplistic terms, the structural skeleton of a building is either equal or cheaper – and more work needs to be done to communicate that this is the case.” 

 

When looking at the path forward for sustainable school construction in light of the Northstowe project, ShittuBalogun, added, “We all have a commitment to not pour more CO2 into the atmosphere than we take out of it, so there is a moral obligation for all of us across the industry – and where better to see this play out than in an educational setting? This is exactly what we like to do, deliver buildings efficiently and sustainably.”

 

Fred Mills, Co-Founder of The B1M, and webinar moderator, added, “Construction methods have the power to truly effect people’s lives. It perhaps doesn’t get more important than thinking about this in the context of where future generations are learning. Wooden school projects create amazing spaces for schooling, both from an environmental, health and well-being point of view. The task now, is to raise awareness of how concepts can be moved to an implementable reality and Northstowe is a fantastic example of this.”

 

Catch up on the full discussion here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Y82uTdShSPakEZw-iKfLQw

 

*compared with 1990 levels