With little fanfare, schools have long been at the forefront of how we reduce the carbon impact of designing, building and operating new buildings.
Many schools and councils realised early on that embracing a holistic approach to sustainability would improve teaching environments, reduce wastage and energy use. A number have helped with pathfinding new ways to futureproof facilities whilst providing real-world examples for their students of green best practice.
Sustainability reaches into schools in other ways. At COP26, for example, Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi delivered a climate change strategy that encompassed twin proposals for both greening the curriculum as well as the school estates in which those lessons will be given.
Specific measures outlined by the UK government include a decarbonisation plan, which will increase the use of energy efficient renewables and low-carbon heating, as well as initiatives that will improve biodiversity across the country’s education facilities.
By David Rowsell, Morgan Sindall Construction’s area director for the Northern Home Counties
Going green in Buckinghamshire
At Morgan Sindall Construction, we saw this drive to be at the forefront of sustainability at several recent Buckinghamshire projects, including at Aylesbury’s Kingsbrook Secondary School and Kingsbrook View Primary Academy. To ensure they were at the leading edge of sustainable school design, environmentally friendly practices and technologies were implemented at the three sites.
These projects were procured under the Southern Construction Framework (SCF), a quality-managed collaborative construction framework for public bodies to procure major building works using a two stage open book process to deliver best value.
At Kingsbrook Secondary School, the £35 million, sixth-form entry school was delivered using low-carbon, off-site solutions. This approach allowed for the use of structural insulated panels (SIPs) which are not only highly energy efficient but are predominantly constructed offsite and so almost entirely eliminate the waste typically generated during construction.
Other sustainable design features include the use of prefabricated Mechanical Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) service modules which will significantly reduce the project’s carbon footprint. Air source heat pumps were also chosen over traditional heating methods to ensure that the school’s operations will be as efficient as possible.
Our CarboniCa carbon calculation tool was an important aspect of the design process at Kingsbrook Secondary School and at Kingsbrook View Primary Academy. This innovative system allowed our teams to assess options for reducing the carbon impact during the design stage of each project, thereby helping to significantly reduce embodied carbon levels. This approach is a central part of Morgan Sindall Construction’s Decarbonising Communities strategy, which has been devised to minimise emissions at every stage of a construction project.
To really maximise the impact of the work at the Kingsbrook Secondary School, we even added a Knowledge Quad to the site - which was a first in the south-east and for the SCF. This facility has been used to train and upskill the next generation of construction industry professionals, providing them with the abilities required to build in an advanced, environmentally friendly manner.
At the nearby Kingsbrook View Primary Academy, a £9 million facility which opened in September 2021, a number of features were incorporated into the design to make the school a more sustainable place to learn. This included adding electric charging points to the car park, creating cycle and scooter storage as well as building a wildlife area and forest school to support the local area’s biodiversity.
Incorporating environmental best practise into the everyday life of today’s schools not only requires a multifaceted, holistic approach but it also has to be a collaborative endeavour. Schools inevitably involve a lot of stakeholders, ranging from the facility’s management, teachers, pupils and governors to the local council and surrounding community.
The collaborative working style of the SCF process was a particular benefit here, as it enabled early engagement with all parties to ensure that the end result would be optimised for every user and project partner.
This was especially true of the council’s carbon reduction target, as Buckinghamshire Council is committed to achieving net-zero for carbon emissions by 2050, as set out in its Climate Change and Air Quality Strategy. By exploring innovative materials and processes early on, we were able to deliver schools that aligned with this strategy.
Our ethos of thinking outside of the box and utilising the latest ideas to deliver sustainable, fit-for-purpose buildings is encompassed by the Intelligent Solutions approach that has been developed here at Morgan Sindall Construction.
Projects such as Kingsbrook Secondary School exemplify why it’s vital to embrace such pioneering techniques and technologies as well as a collaborative approach to construction in order to ensure that our schools meet the high standard of sustainability that’s expected of them.
For more information on this blog, please contact Alice Hickling, communications & marketing manager for Morgan Sindall Construction here.