Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by ARUP


  This note has been prepared to outline how school design needs to be changed in order to reduce the ecological impact of the buildings in construction and operation in order to support a Climate Change Mitigation Strategy that targets a stabilisation of CO2 levels in the order of 550ppm.


  The note is concerned with an aspect, Environmental Sustainability alone, and specifically carbon emissions. Socio-economic needs have not been considered. However, the design and operation of School Buildings play a fundamental part in the education of today's children in how to deal with an issue that is likely to become a fundamental change driver over their lifetime.

Where should our focus be?

  Our impact upon the planets ability to regulate CO2 levels can be broadly split in to two issues:

    —    Carbon Emissions.

    —    Reducing the ability of planetary systems to absorb atmospheric carbon.

  The primary method in which Schools can support the tackling of these issues is through curriculum development and strong leadership in citizenship.

  However, of all building types, school building design should lead in demonstrating the level of reduction required in order to stabilise carbon emissions at an acceptable level.

How far do we need to go and why?

  Within the global scientific community, there is disagreement regarding how much we need to reduce carbon emissions in order to achieve an acceptable concentration of atmospheric carbondioxide. A significant number of variables are currently preventing the agreement of an accurate figure. Estimates seem to range from 60 to 100%. The following is indicative of the process of definition.

  According to the Met Office, [11]it is predicted that by the year 2030 the capacity of the biosphere to absorb carbon will be 2.7 billion tonnes per year. Therefore, in order for the carbon cycle to achieve balance, the world's population can emit no more than 2.7 billion tonnes. In 2030, global population is likely to be around 8.2 billion. Therefore each person in the world will have a carbon allowance of 0.33 tonnes. The UK currently emits 2.6 tonnes[12] per person. Therefore a reduction of 87% is required to achieve a sustainable level of carbon emissions. This is a simplistic approach and does not take in to account the negative effect of the 200 years that CO2 remains in the atmosphere. [13]

  The UK Government's draft Climate Change Bill commits the county to reducing Carbon emissions by 60% by the year 2050. Irrespective of the actual reduction figure required, due to the rate at which our building stock is refreshed (approximately 1% per annum), new and refurbished building carbon emissions need to be reduced dramatically in order to have any effect upon total emissions from buildings (currently around 1/3 of UK emissions).

  If, for instance, 70% of all schools are to be refurbished or replaced between 2010 and 2050, to achieve the 60% reduction the new and refurbished schools would collectively need to operate at an 86% reduction below current emissions in order to achieve the overall 60% reduction.

  Although it is acknowledged that significant levels of carbon reduction will be virtually impossible to achieve on a wide scale immediately, there are several reasons why a strong target needs to be introduced immediately:

    —    Carbon emissions in schools are still rising due to ICT proliferation;

    —    The Design and Construction techniques required to achieve this figure are not widely understood, therefore there is s significant capacity issue; and

    —    There is a need to realign public and construction industry understanding of the degree of change required.

  Therefore, a standard of design, construction and operation is required that reflects zero climatic impact. It is acknowledged that in the vast majority of cases this standard will not be achieved and therefore should not be required under building regulations. However, an environmental "kitemark" should be defined that correlates with zero impact in order to demonstrate how much design and operational behaviour needs to change in order to deliver schools which will work within the ecological capacity of the planet.

What does this mean for school design?

  The issues can be split in to direct and indirect carbon emissions.

  School Building design drives the direct emissions and has a significant impact upon the indirect emissions. It should also be noted that behavioural changes are vital in order to effect the requisite reduction in carbon emissions.

  From our work in designing low and zero carbon buildings in other sectors, the following issues should be considered:

    —    Extension of the school day to maximise the utilisation of the building;

    —    Significant changes in learning models to support a move towards high levels of pupil centred learning from home in order to reduce the size of the building;

    —    Increase in landtake to maximise daylighting and natural ventilation;

    —    Banning Air Conditioning, unless a system can be proposed that has lower carbon emissions than a well designed naturally ventilated solution;

    —    Softening of acoustic regulations to promote natural ventilation;

    —    Integrating energy systems with surrounding residential developments to maximise plant operational efficiencies; and

    —    Significant increases in capital cost.

Why BREEAM in its current form is inappropriate

  The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is an easy to use tool used across the construction industry to assess the sustainability credentials of a building. The tool functions by awarding points across a structured matrix of design, construction and operational characteristics. It is a reasonable tool to guide teams in improving the sustainability credentials of a building. However, it has two characteristics which render it currently inappropriate as a methodology to achieve the degree of carbon emissions required to achieve the 60% reduction target.

    —    Only around 1/3 of the assessment relates to carbon emissions.

    —    BREEAM "excellent" can be achieved with a relatively minor improvement in carbon reduction.

  These issues need to be addressed if BREEAM is to be used to support the headline reduction target.


  Based upon our knowledge of the introduction of strong carbon reduction targets, the likely short term impacts of the introduction of a strong carbon reduction target for the sector are:

    —    Increased Design and Construction Programme in the order of 30% due to Technical and Delivery Capacity issues; and

    —    Increased Capital Costs in the order of 20% due to Design and Construction changes.

  The latter point may be partially addressed by revisiting the space norms and curriculum.


    —    The incorporation of carbon reduction planning within the procurement of ICT solutions for schools.

    —    Re-evaluation of the acoustic design standards.

    —    Undertake research to establish how a school would operate if it had a physical size 20% lower than currently defined under BB98.

    —    Undertake a desktop study to examine how a school can be designed and operated to achieve the requisite carbon reduction targets.

March 2007

11   Colin Forrest The Cutting Edge: Climate Science to April 2005: Back

12   Energy Information Administration, International Energy Annual 2003, 2005, Table H.cco2 (World Per Capita Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the Consumption and Flaring of Fossil Fuels,1980-2003). Back

13   The Royal Society, A Guide to Facts and Fictions about Climate Change, 2005: http:/// Back

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Prepared 9 August 2007