Education Estate

The Need for Action on the Education Estate

The Department for Education published its Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy on the 21st of April 2022. The strategy aims to help educational organisations reduce their environmental footprint, with the objective of achieving net-zero. It identified 5 key elements in what is known as Action Area 3 – Education Estate and Digital Infrastructure, which we set out in this document.

What is the aim of Action Area 3 – Education Estate and Digital Infrastructure?

It aims to create “a green, sustainable education estate that is resilient to the impacts of climate change and will normalise and inspire young people to live sustainable lives, with the impact felt widely in their families and communities”.

The strategy acknowledges that more evidence is needed to enable the education sector to reach this aim. This includes more investment and investigation into new technologies, sustainable building design retrofit, ICT, building management and the surrounding environment.

Additionally, it also states that, until 2025, to align and build upon existing guidance and best practice, this action area will be centred around researching initiatives and experienced-based learnings.

The 5 Key Elements of Action Area 3 – Education Estate and Digital Infrastructure

1. New Builds

All new school buildings and secure children’s homes delivered by the Department of Education will be net-zero in operation. The strategy recognises the efforts already being made in the higher education sector. It looks to “drive greater ambition through their net-zero buildings and campuses”. To ensure that UK education buildings remain world-leading the strategy proposes the implementation of:

  • Use and assessment of nature-based classroom designs
  • Sustainable ICT solutions
  • Acceleration of the implementation of ultra-low carbon education buildings
  • Acceleration of Gen Zero programme

2. Existing Estate

To improve the collation of key estates data to enable evidence-based decisions on where to act and invest. The strategy recognises the importance of data collection and analysis of energy consumption across educational buildings. The key focus is on piloting and implementing new building technologies to improve consumption. Future initiatives will include:

  • Working with BEIS to ensure the education sector has access to the Public Sector Decarbonization Scheme to support them in decarbonising their estate.
  • All capital funding bids for further or higher education must include consideration of the environmental impact
  • Sharing of best practice advice to support the education sector in making future investment decisions
  • Further development to the Good Estates Management for Schools guidance

3. Resilience, adaptation, access to Nature and environmental conditions

The Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk identified the three priority risk areas as increased heat, flooding and water scarcity. Therefore, a response to these risks must be considered within the education sector. Future initiatives to help mitigate these risks within education buildings and estates include:

  • Working with partners to explore funding support and innovation to improve the biodiversity, air quality, shading and flood resistance
  • Continuing evaluation of the UK’s first ‘Biophilic’ primary school
  • Piloting the use of smart air and environmental quality monitors to provide data and performance metrics.
  • Supporting Defra’s Clean Air Strategy
  • Issuing guidance to the education sector on ways to reduce air pollution (both indoors and outdoors).
  • Support the Department for Transport with sustainable travelling initiatives
  • Support an EA pilot investigating offsetting carbon emissions from their flood scheme construction work
  • Increase biodiversity across the education estate and implement Green Corridors (linear natural infrastructure).
  • Minimise barriers to nature in school buildings design programmes and building standards.

4. Heating

Currently, 60% of energy use in education settings comes from high-intensity fuels. The strategy states that there must be a reduction in demand for heat and hot water use across the educational estate. Initiatives to support this include:

  • Launch of an Energy Pods pilot scheme that will provide off-site manufactured, low-carbon, heating solutions on the existing school and college estate
  • Test the use and feasibility of replacing school boilers with ground or air source heat solutions
  • Working with the BEIS to support the replacement of fossil fuel heating systems with low carbon alternatives.

5. Water

The strategy identifies a need to improve efficiencies and resilience to water use and flooding. Future initiatives to support this include:

  • By 2023 the risk of school floods will be displayed alongside emissions and biodiversity.
  • Over 800 schools will have a reduced flood risk by 2026.
  • Work with Ofwat and Market Operator Services to regulatory mechanisms and incentives to improve water efficiency across the education estate.
  • Ensure the education estate is resilient and ready for flooding and coastal change

Reporting Frameworks, Reporting Processes and Targets:

All schools, by 2024, will be required to report on energy usage and emissions via a standardised reporting framework.

If you would like to discuss how the Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy may impact your organisation or would like further information on the management of educational estates and the implementation and monitoring of sustainable initiatives, contact a member of the Provelio consultancy team today. You can contact us on:

For more information on developing Estate Strategies, download our free Essential Steps for University Estates Strategies report today.

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