Examination of Witnesses (Questions 480-499)|
1 NOVEMBER 2006
Q480 Chairman: Should we slow the
whole process down so that we get it right?
Dr Davies: I would suggest that
there needs to be some really smart and intensive thinking but
I do not think this would result in necessarily slower delivery
of improved schools, given some very fast and deep thinking at
this upfront stage.
Mr Yates: And making sure that
you pull together and think through the linkages between different
initiatives/different pushes that are being made. Due to the speed
of the programme and because of the pressures on the construction
industry and so on, there is a strong move towards what is known
as modern methods of construction, a very broad range of construction
techniques, but there is very little experience of how those actually
perform in use. A significant number of those are relatively light
weight construction techniques and that raises questions over
the adaptability of those buildings into the future. For example,
the issue of needing air conditioning. If you have a building
which is very light weight, then it will not be able to absorb
higher temperatures to the same degree and you are much more likely
perhaps to need a building system in there which is an energy
using system that will air condition that environment, so air
conditioning and therefore higher carbon emissions as a result.
It is thinking through the balance between all these different
messages that the construction industry has been given.
Dr Davies: I want to make it very
clear that this is not one of the situations where the step into
sustainability is being done with the supplying industry kicking
and screaming. In fact, quite the opposite. I spend quite a lot
of time as the Sustainable Development Commissioner talking to
the construction industry. It is the other way round. There is
frustration that there is not the clear prioritisation of sustainability
because the industry knows how to deliver it and because of its
own CSR wants to actually be seen to deliver sustainable schools.
Chairman: Thank you for those initial
answers. Let us move on and broaden the questioning but still
talking about sustainability.
Q481 Paul Holmes: Is this not all
very alarming? In some of the earlier evidence sessions we have
had, we have heard that a lot of the new wave of schools are not
very good as educational places to work in and learn in and now
we are hearing from you that also they are not actually very sustainable
either, even that they are going to be less sustainable than what
they are replacing. The Government have launched a sustainable
schools strategy this year and they have said that care for the
environment will be second nature to all the pupils in the new
school building programme, yet the evidence seems to be quite
the opposite. The Sustainable Development Commission has said
that the Government have not thought it through, they do not know
whether the new schools estate will mean higher or lower carbon
emissions or what the impact will be on water demand, waste production
and traffic. This is very worrying. It is more than worrying,
it is a disaster, is it not?
Dr Davies: It is a clear opportunity
to do a lot better and it really does start with that mapping
of the policy through to delivery in setting a vision of what
is going to be the contribution of this programme to carbon reduction.
Schools are 15% of the public sector's carbon footprint. There
is a tremendous opportunity in this programme to demonstrate through
leadership how that can be reduced through good construction.
Q482 Paul Holmes: What would be the
key features in a list of five, shall we say, of what should be
a sustainable school? What are the most important things?
Dr Davies: Before I come on to
the bricks and mortar, what we are looking for is something with
the minimum environmental footprint but the maximum environmental
"mind print", as I call it. There is a tremendous opportunity
here to affect the way that children who will soon be adults and
who will soon be consumers think about the world. I had the opportunity
yesterday to visit Beaumont Primary School in Hadleigh, Suffolk
where a lot of the inherent structure has been got right: there
is the natural lighting and there is the natural ventilation.
Yes, there is a windmill but there is a living green roof, solar
panels, rainwater collection and so on. That has a tremendous
educational impact on the kids and it is integrated in their curriculum.
That is all absolutely fabulous and there are a few such beacons
of good practice. In terms of what the features should beand
we have mentioned some of them alreadythere should be as
much natural lighting and natural ventilation as possible, probably
something around high thermal mass so that we are proofed against
climate change tipping us into air conditioning and its high carbon
footprint. I think that another very important one is on site
electricity generation, whether that is windmill, solar or whether
it is biomass or indeed whether it is even quite old-fashioned
technology in terms of gas powered combined heat and power where
there is a tremendous carbon saving from generating electricity
locally in a school. That would be my list but I am sure that
my colleagues here would have another list.
Mr Mayfield: There is a standard
for space utilisation in schools, BB98, which defines what all
the size and spaces are and that sets quite a rigid framework
for school designs. So, you get a school with X size for X number
of pupils. If that could be turned over or reconsidered, there
is the opportunity to lengthen the educational day and reduce
the size of the school by 10 or 15%. If you can reduce the size
of the school and spend the money that you were going to spend
on that extra bit of school, you are making the building that
is left perform better and I think that is something that is worth
serious consideration. Ban air conditioning is an easy one. Develop
the schools so that they do not use power in its neutral state.
So, when they need heating, a bit of heating in the winter and
possibly a bit of cooling in the summer if it is absolutely unavoidable
but not to default to heavily engineered solutions. There are
a number of solutions that can work. The buildings that look sustainable
will be radically different architecturally and in operation to
the schools we have seen today. You cannot design that school
in a manner and tweak it because there is such a fundamental difference
between where we are and where we need to be. I think that there
has to be an acceptance that these things will look and operate
massively differently. On the windmill side, I agree with the
educational side of wind turbines but a 1.5 kilowatt wind turbine
is a seventh as effective as a 1 megawatt wind turbine. You spend
seven times as much money doing that to get the same carbon reduction.
There is an educational benefit to it but the fundamental difference
we need is a low carbon infrastructure to support low carbon buildings.
The buildings cannot do it on their own.
Mr Terry: The real issue here
is that we are building schools in which future generations are
going to be educated and all those schools are at the heart of
their communities. If you build a school which conforms with sustainability
principles and the curriculum is designed to emphasise those kind
of approaches, then children learn by kind of osmosis and they
spread that message out in the community. It is difficult to change
hearts and minds in the community and amongst businesses as well
but the best way to do it is to deliver it through the educational
experience that these children are having. Kids are great at picking
up when you `don't walk the talk'. If you are building a building
and telling them about sustainability, they know that you are
not operating in that way. The majority of schools do not think
about their waste output; it all goes into the same bins. What
is the point of trying to teach source separation to kids in a
school throughout a lesson programme and then they watch the school
throwing everything out into one bin? The lights stay on. Where
I live near Aylesbury, I came back from the cinema last weekend
via the brand new Aylesbury College which is being built and,
at 11.30 at night, every single light in the building was on.
It was like a beacon from the communityhere we are! We
are empty but all the lights are on! I do not understand why they
do not operate on those kinds of principles. The LSE has said
that colleges should operate within sustainability principles.
Here is a brand new building which seems to be saying, "Up
yours. We are going to do it the way we want to do it".
Q483 Paul Holmes: On the renewable
energy side taking into account the strictures about cost and
everything, I have taught a number of pupils in different schools,
both old ones and brand new ones, where they are very disappointed
that they are having all these lessons and hearing all this from
the Government and it is not in their school. We visited one of
the Academies in Southwark that has won the design award as the
best one and the kids there were saying, "We have no solar
panels, turbine windmills or whatever" and there is no way
that you can monitor what the end use of the school is. They were
quite despondent and that was a brand new state-of-the-art designed
Dr Davies: Quite possibly, the
ICT department needed a power station of its own to run it! Another
feature of what people look for in "sexy", new educational
buildings is the big arrays of PCs but there is an energy efficiency
impact in the way they are set up. There is a right way to do
it and there is a wrong way to do it and I am not sure the specification
Q484 Paul Holmes: What is the reason
why that tends not to be there? Is it the cost factor because
the architect argued, "We had to strip it out because of
the cost" or is it the lack of regional guidance?
Dr Davies: We have touched on
this earlier. I think it is about the priority. If you want to
build sustainable schools, that has to be the priority and you
then have to work out how you optimise the financing of that to
suit it. At the moment, we are working to a very old-fashioned
financial model for the amount of money per square meter of school
that has not taken account of the new urgency about building sustainable
Q485 Paul Holmes: On an issue such
as the use of grey water and recycled water, what percentage of
all these new schools that have been built at enormous expense
to deliver this sustainability use grey or recycled water?
Mr Mayfield: Grey water recycling
is quite expensive but rain water reclamation is used reasonably
often because it can be shown to pay for itself reasonably quickly.
Of all the bolt-ons, it is the one that survives longest through
the value engineering process.
Q486 Paul Holmes: Out of, say, 50
new schools, how many have rain water?
Mr Mayfield: Eight or 10 would
be a guess.
Q487 Paul Holmes: So, less than 20%?
Mr Mayfield: Yes.
Q488 Paul Holmes: Which again is
not very good. My final question, which is certainly not a building
feature, is that one of the things the Government said is that,
as part of sustainable schools, we should encourage alternative
transport, walking and cycling to school. On the other hand, they
are encouraging schools to recruit their children from miles away
and parents co-opt into schools that are miles away. Is that not
totally contradictory from the point of view of what we are talking
Mr Terry: From my point of view,
if you have a local authority and it has to rationalise its educational
provision when it is going to build a new school, it may need
to close down several schools around and move it to a different
site. The problem is that you are going to have to transport children
to and from that site. Where I used to be in a rural community,
you had to have public transport or private transport to get kids
there, but that still meant that many, many parents travelled
10 or 12 miles to get their kids to school. You have to think
very carefully about where you are going to locate the school
at the front end. If you are going down the road of saying, "We
want to have local schools so that kids can cycle and walk to
school", then you have to put that as one of your priorities.
Q489 Paul Holmes: And that is not
in any of the criteria?
Mr Terry: I do not think so, no.
Q490 Mr Marsden: Stewart, I wonder
if I can come to you first. The evidence which you have given
to the Select Committee was very strong and forceful regarding
your concerns about the Government not having looked at the issue
of high and low carbon emissions and you have said that this is
extremely worrying. What level of engagement have you had with
DfES in terms and I literally mean at what level? Have you been
engaged on a regular basis with officials who are doing BSF? Has
Alan Johnson or Jim Knight or Andrew Adonis had you in for a greater
chat at any stage? The message we seem to be getting is that you
and your colleagues and the other people here are putting out
lots of good ideas but meanwhile the great Titanic, the DfES,
is proceeding smoothly down a separate path and not really taking
them on board. Is that a fair assessment or not?
Dr Davies: I would like to take
it in parts before I assess it as fair or not. I think that the
doors are open and that there is constructive discussion going
on. In fact, we have a secondee from the Sustainable Development
Commission full time in DfES as part of our capacity building
role. I certainly would not position it as being "barricades
and rock throwing" at all. It is not at that status. Clearly,
it is not being influential enough in the ultimate priorities.
Q491 Mr Marsden: You basically need
to have certainly senior civil servants if not ministers prepared
to sit down with you, even if it is only for half-an-hour, and
talk through some of the inherent problems in what you are saying.
Dr Davies: Yes.
Mr Marsden: That is useful to know. I
want to move on now to the issue of environmental sustainability
as a whole. I went to two of my schools in Blackpool the other
week, both of them in a different context: one is looking at a
complete rebuild and one is looking at partial rebuild. Both the
heads there said the same thing to me"It is really
exciting but it is really worrying because we do not know what
we are going to want to put in our classrooms in 10 or 15 years'
time. One of them was old enough, as I am, to remember language
laboratories. Language laboratories were the great thing of the
future at one stage and we had all these old-fashioned tape machines
and, within a few years, they were completely redundant because
of technological change. There are similar issues in terms, I
would suggest, of banks of computers, portable as opposed to fixed
etc, etc. What is going in at the moment as part of BSF? Never
mind the environmental sustainability at the moment, what is going
in at the moment to make sure that the spaces that are created
in classrooms under BSF will be fit for purpose given the school
technologies and the possibilities of five, 10 or even 15 years
Q492 Chairman: We must have shorter
questions. I am trying to get in as many sustainability questions.
Mr Mayfield: I have been doing
some work and having some discussions with the major IT providers.
BSF is a big deal for them; they are putting a lot of effort into
it. The overriding view is that future ICT requirements will actually
have a lesser impact on the building than historic ICT requirements.
So, there is not too much concern. There is a great deal of debate
over whether or not schools should have raised access floors throughout
and the costs associated with that and there are other practical
issues associated with it. In ICT terms, there is not a general
concern and I would agree with that. We will see ICT start to
disappear into the education process as the tools become smaller
and easier and lower powered.
Q493 Mr Marsden: Has that been factored
into the tenders and you and colleagues are now agreeing with
the DfES and individual schools?
Mr Mayfield: The fact that it
is of lower impact means that it does not necessarily have a cost.
That is a kind of long-term view. There is a driver to increase
the number of PCs per pupil which is increasing power demands
and is increasing heat loads, so there is a potential that, over
the next 10 years, you will see a problem arising as there is
more and more IT in schools, more and more air conditioning and
so on and so forth before technology actually starts to drive
that down again.
Q494 Mr Marsden: Is there anything
that we can do to close that gap?
Mr Mayfield: Yes, building levels
of climate change and ICT resilience into the BSF space because,
if you overlay climate change and ICT heat gains, you will find
that some of the things that are being built today will not be
fit for purpose.
Dr Davies: I would like to make
a brief comment on that. The improvements in energy efficiency
in the buildings that have been a result of BREEAM coming in have
actually been outweighed in carbon terms by the increase in electricity
going into ICT. So, we have actually gone backwards.
Mr Terry: And you have the issue
of extended school days now as well. You have schools open from
8.00 in the morning until 10.00 at night 50 weeks of the year
and there is going to be increasing community use on those kinds
of facilities. You are going to have those facilities absorbing
more energy continually from that point of view.
Q495 Mr Marsden: Can I ask a question
and perhaps, Alan, you would like to pick up on this. I am quite
old fashioned about the way in which I look at these things and
in one of the previous sessions I was a little concerned that
no one at any point specifically mentioned materials, old-fashioned
materials, in terms of sustainability. In your requirements under
BREEAM, they do not talk about materials, do they?
Mr Yates: Yes, they do. There
is a whole section in BREEAM that looks at the issue of materials
for key building elements on a life cycle basis, so it looks at
the embodied impacts, that is a range of environmental impacts,
of construction materials as they go into the building but then
also as they are maintained throughout the building's life. This
covers inherent impacts of materials and the impacts of responsible
Q496 Mr Marsden: You have eight different
Mr Yates: It is one of the eight
Q497 Chairman: We are going to come
on to BREEAM in a minute.
Mr Yates: It is one of the categories.
Q498 Mr Marsden: Can I ask a question
finally about an issue about which we have already heard, the
time gap. You are saying that your impression is that everything
is powering ahead and that is one of the reasons why some of these
issues cannot be taken into account by DfES and by schools, but
I am led to understand that there are a number of authorities
where BSF is already behind for a significant period of time.
First of all, why is that, if they are powering ahead in the way
that has been described and does that offer some opportunity for
Mr Mayfield: Some are behind but
the marketplace only gets to look at them once they come to the
marketplace and the period of time that the market is then given
to respond is not changing, be it 13, 16 or 17 weeks. It is how
long they have to take the requirements of the council and come
up with a response. So, even though they are drifting, that period
of time is not changing.
Q499 Mr Carswell: I heard you talk
about contracts with the DfES and schools, but I wondered if you
have ever thoughtand this is perhaps a question more for
Mr Terrythat maybe there is either too much or too little
central guidance on this whole sustainability agenda. Do you sometimes
think that there needs to be more guidance or do you sometimes
think that actually maybe it should be left to the schools and
maybe they could work out what really is sustainable in the context
of their communities? Do you ever sometimes wonder why we national
politicians are discussing building materials in local schools?
Why do we have a national commission on this? That is food for
Mr Terry: My feeling is that we
do not have a leadership group in the education profession who
understand the principles behind this, so they need educating
very rapidly. They are generally bright people and they can pick
it up very quickly and they can ask the right kind of questions.
If you have a client base which is not knowledgeable, it will
be led by the professionals who will talk them into what they
think would be a good solution. You have to be courageous as a
head teacher in terms of asking the right kind of questions. Appearing
stupid is not normally a head teacher's role. This is an important
issue and I know that the national college are now about to move
forward on this agenda, but there is nothing inherent in the way
in which we train our teachers, for example, through the leadership
programmes that exist at the present moment. There is an optional
unit in Leading from the Middle, which is a training programme
through the national college; there is one unit in the NPQH but
it is an optional unit; there is nothing else that exists at the
present moment. They are running hard to try and solve the problem.
I think that you have to educate the client to be able to ask
the right kind of questions and to actually have the kind of visioning
view as to what they want from their schools. I think the issue
you raised earlier on about what kind of schools we are going
to have comes back to what we want in terms of the curriculum
we are going to have in 15 years. That is a bit of an imponderable.
So, it is delivering an envelope that actually fits what we might
want to do. I think that you have to give people the opportunity
to visualise where they would like to be and the kind of education
process that they would like. Are we going to have boxes in 15
or 25 years' time? How are kids going to learn? Will they be in
a classroom of 30 or are there going to be individualised learning
programmes? Leadership teams in schools need to be able to thrash
those kind of issues out and they need to be able to demandperhaps
that is the wrong wordby saying, "What we want from
our new school for the future is this and you, the designer, and
you, the company, can come up with the ideas that fulfil our dream".
Dr Davies: I think that there
is a balance to be struck. The head teacher is exactly the right
person for making the decision with the leadership team locally
about trade-offs and optimising the local situation. However,
we should not be reinventing the wheel at that time. There is
a huge inefficiency in a process where there are, in a sense,
too many options, and I think that a degree of standardisation
working on some clear goals from DfES about what sustainable schools
look like would produce a best practice, that would then present
a more focused set of options to local leadership.
Mr Mayfield: I do not think that
we need any more guidance. What we do need is the correct setting
of standards to what is sustainable and what is not. I think that
there is enough paper around written about it.
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