Sustainable school design must consider, as a priority, the requirements of the users of the building, including comfort, fresh air and natural light. These contribute to human health, well being and a good quality learning and teaching environment. These must now be provided in an energy efficient ‘low carbon framework.

Sustainable Design of Buildings section therefore focuses on low carbon design, as this is the main driver for new buildings and the refurbishment of existing buildings. Sustainable design aims to reduce carbon emissions wherever possible, moving towards low or even ‘zero carbon’ emissions. This can be achieved by:

  1. Reducing energy demand, through the use of high energy efficiency standards, for thermal insulation and air tightness and making use of natural energy from the sun, wind and external temperature variations. This is often termed ‘passive design’.
  2. Installing efficient and effective heating and ventilation systems, energy efficient lights and appliances. In particular, these should all have responsive and understandable, controls.
  3. Maximising the energy supply from renewable energy sources, both onsite and community based, depending the location and nature of the site.
Sustainable Design components for a school building
Sustainable Design components for a school building

Many ‘low energy’ schools underperform in practice. This can be due to:

  • Deficiencies in design, underperformance of thermal insulation, air leakage;
  • Poor control;
  • Inaccuracies in design tools used to predict performance, either in data input or due to the tools themselves;
  • Changes in patterns of use to those of the initial design;
  • Energy uses not considered at the building design stage, for example, from appliances, stand-by losses from equipment, major unaccounted energy uses, packaged air cooling, kilns and swimming pools.

The design should therefore attempt to provide solutions to minimise the impact of the above on carbon emissions.

The following section presents issues that need to be considered when implementing sustainable design to school buildings.

What should I do?

Have a holistic approach to a new build or refurbishment that includes all stakeholders and all components of the built environment from the outset.

WLGA - CLILC Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru / Welsh Assembly Government