Educational establishments should not overlook the opportunities afforded by a new £1bn government funding to reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprints, says Priva UK and Ireland sales manager Gavin Holvey.
Making good on a ‘decarbonisation’ manifesto pledge made ahead of the last General Election, UK chancellor Rishi Sunak this week announced the forthcoming availability of a substantial pot of cash for energy efficiency upgrades as part of the government’s summer ‘mini-budget’. Although the majority of the fund is to be reserved for residential projects, £1bn is to be made available to public sector buildings “to fund both energy efficiency and low carbon heat upgrades”.
Long-term observers of British politics will be familiar with the pattern of major stimulus packages following periods of profound upheaval. With a global recession a near-certainty, these initiatives will become increasingly important to private companies active in all sorts of capacities. But for the public sector organisations that can access these funds, they can provide the opportunity to improve efficiency and reduce costs at precisely the time when budgets will be coming under the greatest possible scrutiny.
Schools are among the institutions highlighted with regard to the grant fund, and it’s not hard to see why. Thanks to a series of schemes during the past decade, the education sector is more advanced than some others in terms of implementing a low-carbon infrastructure. But while many have taken important first steps – notably, replacing legacy lighting with the latest LED-based systems – there is still much that can be done in terms of improving overall energy efficiency.
For instance, whilst new lighting is frequently a part of any major new technology upgrade, it isn’t always deployed with sensors and control systems that could further reduce energy consumption. Heating insulation, on-site energy storage and the partial incorporation of solar power generation are among the other elements that can help schools and colleges ensure they have a fully optimised energy infrastructure.
But it is an overarching building management system (BMS) that is arguably the most significant single component here as it can provide the opportunity to keep precise tabs on how much energy is being used in a facility, and where. Technical managers can then use this information to identify further opportunities for savings, and report back to the governors and authorities about the role their institutions are playing in lowering the overall energy costs of the education sector.
Control and monitoring
Wind back ten years and the range of building control and monitoring systems was significantly more limited. Prices were often prohibitively expensive, especially for publicly-funded institutions, while the use of proprietary technologies caused all kinds of problems in terms of integrating with other systems. But over the past decade building control technologies have matured into a market of their own, with systems now available that cater to every budget and requirement list.
At Priva we frequently employ the metaphor of a BMS being the brain of a building, enabling all technical functions that ensure a healthy and comfortable indoor climate to be carefully controlled. Our systems – which include the Priva Blue ID S-line for projects requiring the maximum flexibility, and the C-line for smaller-scale projects – utilise constant monitoring to provide insight into the performance of installations through user-friendly interfaces. Connected to primary building systems such as lighting and heating, these BMS can allow technical managers to ensure their facilities are running as efficiently as possible – and then make further changes, for example to presets, in order to reduce unnecessary expenditure.
Whilst an upgrade focused purely on lighting can certainly make a notable difference to a building’s energy efficiency, it is the holistic approach incorporating an overarching BMS that paves the way to the greatest possible savings. And for schools and colleges pondering making an application under the new Government scheme – something they should certainly consider doing! – there is a very good chance that proposals that feature a control and monitoring dimension will be prioritised above those that plan to improve only one or two specific systems.
Good news for taxpayers, too
This scheme will obviously not be able to help all schools and colleges, but it should allow a significant number to take the next step in their energy efficiency journeys. Those establishments that do receive funding will be in a good position to achieve major reductions in their energy expenditure, with the obvious benefit this brings for the tax payer and the Treasury. In a broader context, it will also mean that they can play a bigger role in the latest decarbonisation objective – to reduce emissions by half-a-megatonne a year – as the UK moves towards its great goal of achieving ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050.
For more information on Priva BMS and other smart building technologies, please visit https://www.priva.com/uk.