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Combining energy efficiency and elegance in school buildings

‘Energy efficient’ and ‘elegant’ aren’t words often associated with school buildings. But with awareness around climate change and the importance of energy efficiency reaching an all-time high, it is vital for schools to play their part in creating a sustainable future by considering new, elegant approaches and systems.

The case for high-performance, low-energy buildings and for upgrading existing buildings to achieve this is clear. Making buildings more energy efficient will ensure fewer greenhouse gases are emitted – ultimately lessening a school’s impact on the environment. What’s more, being energy efficient will also have significant financial benefits for schools, minimising the energy demanded from a building to help cut operating costs.

Working towards a more elegant system
Despite having the technology and know-how to design elegant, energy-efficient systems, Dr Steve Fawkes says many manufacturers continue to use more conservative methods, which can often result in clunky builds. For example, many UK school buildings date back to the 1970s and still use primitive components and systems – resulting in materials and energy being unnecessarily wasted.  

In contrast, more modern systems can improve energy efficiency by 50% or more. By taking an elegant approach, manufacturers can, therefore, help eliminate the problems often associated with traditional builds – pushing the boundaries of design to create beautifully sustainable buildings which consider the environmental impact, instead.

But whilst aesthetic is important, elegance is about more than just looks. It’s about using innovative approaches and designs to ensure every element of the building works seamlessly together to maximise efficiency and meet the needs of the end user.

How can manufacturers support this approach?
Fawkes points out that producing an elegant, energy-efficient design requires significant effort and consideration compared to a standard ‘off-the-shelf’ one; which is perhaps why so many manufacturers continue to utilise more conservative methods. But it is well worth it in the long run.

One way manufacturers can support a more elegant approach is through off-site construction – which is both more sustainable and causes less disruption to staff and students. Traditionally constructed school buildings often involve months of preparation and on-site activity, which increases pollution due to carbon emissions from vehicles. In comparison, off-site builds mean less time on site, lower costs for both the manufacturer and the school – and crucially, a reduced environmental impact.

Using a local labour pool which travels a short distance to one site will also help decrease vehicle movements, as will ordering products in bulk to minimise deliveries. To help eliminate waste, manufacturers can also receive materials without packaging and use any wood off-cuts as biomass fuel where possible.

To design and build structures that consume as little energy as possible (whilst generating as much as possible from a clean, renewable source) it is also worth considering solar panels, lighting and recycled air. Solar panels on the roof can help schools generate enough energy to supply the building itself and other buildings too, significantly reducing running costs. Equally, using efficient, low-energy lighting systems can lower costs by 50% – whilst state-of-the-art heating and cooling systems costing just £5/m2 per annum to run can recover and recycle over 90% of the heat in a building.

The end result is a win-win situation. A win for the manufacturers whose processes and outputs become more time and cost-effective – and a win for the schools who effectively lower their operating costs and minimise disruption, whilst lessening their impact on the planet.

Why are NetZero Buildings different?
We’re completely committed to designing, developing and funding high-quality buildings for schools which consume as little energy as possible, eliminate waste and reverse the effects of climate change.

In the past, our projects have included a new middle school in Bedford, where we developed an aesthetically pleasing and cost-efficient ‘campus within a campus’ and the UK’s largest net zero carbon building. We also designed and built a new building to accommodate a growing primary school in London, which has since been recognised with multiple awards and crowned the UK’s most energy-efficient school building

Using state-of-the-art BIM design software, NetZero Buildings are designed by our in-house team of architects and engineers – who are continuously looking for elegant new ways to improve energy efficiency. These multi-award-winning designs run at a fraction of the cost of alternative solutions, generating clean energy and revenue through integrated renewable energy sources.

Our high-tech manufacturing processes are the basis of the impressive results we generate for our clients. We manufacture all buildings off-site, ready to be assembled on-site in a matter of days, and ensure products arrive in bulk – minimising deliveries and vehicle movements to help reduce disruption, congestion and carbon emissions.

NetZero Buildings beat the typical stereotype of ‘clunky’ schools – thanks to our innovative, affordable designs which maintain elegance and seamlessly maximise energy efficiency.

To talk to us about how we can help lessen the environmental impact of your existing or future school buildings using our intelligent and sophisticated approach, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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