Four 'net zero' schools open this September

With rising energy bills and the effects of the climate crisis impacting schools around the UK, four schools have opened this September with buildings that operate at net zero.

Working in partnership with NetZero Buildings, Brookland Infant & Nursery School in north-west London, Broadfields Primary School in Edgware, Treetops Free School in Thurrock and Hart School in Staffordshire have embarked on this net zero journey, creating a net zero area of over 4,000m2 – which is equivalent to 21 tennis courts or over three Olympic-sized swimming pools.

All four schools achieved the A+ rating for energy efficiency by incorporating a mix of lean, clean and green technology. Lean processes use less energy and manage demand. Clean technology uses local energy efficiently. Green technology maximises opportunities for renewable energy on-site – eg photovoltaic and grey water technologies.

NetZero Buildings supported the individual design choices for the schools, from lean measures such as using LED lights, to reduce wasted heat energy, to creating green energy with the installation of solar panels on the roof of school buildings.

The solar panels - built into the school’s design - provide the school with a renewable source of energy, not only lowering energy costs but offering the opportunity to make money to reinvest in the school, as excess energy can be sold back to the network.

In addition to this, the schools are airtight and use different forms of offsite construction solutions to ensure the building remains comfortable for staff and students in all weathers and reduces the amount of energy used to heat the building.

In addition to supporting sustainability goals, the schools’ designs promote the health and wellbeing of the staff and children in the school.

Schools that prioritise sustainability are more likely to understand and reflect the natural world in the design, which can subsequently improve health and wellbeing. For example, the schools were encouraged to use as much natural daylight as they can to reduce the amount of energy used to light the school.

Due to the location of the schools, NetZero Buildings had to use innovative strategies for Brookland Infant & Nursery School and Hart School, in particular, to ensure that the maximum amount of daylight entered the building.

Without a focus on net zero, this solar gain may have not been considered in the school’s design. The natural light is set to improve more than just the school’s sustainability, as it’s been proven to promote vitamin D generation, enhance mental performance and even improve exam grades for students.

In addition, net zero buildings are likely to provide better air quality to students and staff. These net zero schools have used mechanical ventilation heat recovery to cut down fuel bills with pre-heated air. However, this also improves the overall air quality, which can reduce symptoms for asthma and allergy sufferers.

The schools all required something specific for each of their students. Treetops Free School, for example, needed a space that was as flexible as possible to support the wide range of SEN students and their needs, and Brookland Infant & Nursery School, needed a number of ramps to ensure access for their disabled users.

However, all of the schools shared an ethos to positively inspire the next generation, which they’ve integrated into not only the learning environment but also the physical environment through these new net zero spaces.

By creating these spaces to support the fight for sustainable change, these schools are making their mark to support future generations through more than just their positive learning environments.

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