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Tony Cahill, Executive Director at Vivark, part of the First Ark Group, gives his insight into creating a more sustainable environment for educational establishments this summer.

With the cost of providing providing 878,000 additional school spaces between 2015-2023 estimated at £12bn, the government is expected to push forward with its pledge to approve 500 more ‘free schools’ by 2020 to assist with the pressure posed to the sector.

However, much more can be done closer to home to help alleviate the strain of maintaining an efficient, sustainable establishment.

Estates teams and other key decision makers should take a step back and think holistically about the existing space; which areas can be adapted to suit current and ongoing needs? This isn’t always an easy call to make, therefore it’s important to work with like-minded suppliers, particularly an expert design team, to establish the best course of action. Refurbished or newly built space needs to be as flexible as possible to suit future requirements – as these will change over time. For example, being able to adapt a common area into a teaching space without the need for building work will be much easier if it’s considered as part of the initial brief.


Another point to consider would be to think more broadly than education; schools often form the heart of a community, so could the works required include extending the use of the building for other


activities outside of school opening times? This could help generate additional revenue and would add great social value to the surrounding community by holding family- themed activities at a central, trusted hub.

Sustainability can drive real value on any refurbishment or build project, however small. All too often we’re so focused on the adaptation work we don’t always consider energy saving measures, which could significantly maximise value. This could arguably explain why recent EEF figures show the education sector is overspending on energy to the tune of £173 million a year.

An estate manager or head teacher cannot be expected to resolve issues within every area of energy overspend, therefore forging strong partnerships with local suppliers will safeguard an establishment and ensure advice is on hand should it be needed.

A full energy audit may shed light on areas that could deliver reduced environmental impact and maintenance costs, whilst still meeting current needs. Examples include considering the installation of low energy lighting, saving on ongoing maintenance as well as energy costs - in particular if LED lighting is used. Similarly, the introduction of automated lighting and heating controls to ensure energy is only being used when areas are occupied is also a great energy saving measure that can be easily adapted to an existing site.

It is often assumed that renewable energy sources, such as solar PV and biomass heating solutions have

associated high costs, but there’s now funding available for the education sector that can help with this.

The Salix Programme launched in 2012 to provide 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. The subsequent energy savings and feed-in tariff covers the investment costs and ultimately provides long-term financial savings.



Again, educational establishments should not carry the weight of the application process and subsequent fulfilment of work themselves. Many facilities management companies offer a fully flexible service, tailored to the needs of a customer and can assist with programmes such as Salix.

Like-minded partners act as a natural extension of a team and are central to driving ongoing sustainability in existing educational establishments - supporting with statutory obligations whilst bringing a planned and phased approach to the upkeep of a property.

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