Better school environments enhance a precious global resource

Schools are a vital resource across the world. Pupils in different cultures may respect them differently, but they are an incredibly important part of not only learning but also life.

It is understandable that schools are extremely reluctant to upgrade to systems they are not familiar as they do not want to interfere with the learning environment in any way that has a negative effect.

However, pupils spend more of their time in school than at their own house so the facilities should be modern, up to date, efficient and environmentally friendly but too often the opposite is true.

We can see this in the lighting. Most schools in Britain use a mixture of fluorescent tubes and LED panel lights. While both these produce good quality light, fluorescent tubes are energy-inefficient. LED is the alternative this uses much less energy and the quality of light is better.

LED efficiency

LEDs come in many shapes and sizes, with LED panels a popular option, to provide greatest benefits in efficiency and quality. LED lights can have a working life of up to 50,000 hours, which would save the school money on maintenance, and would drastically reduce the electricity bill, sometimes by up to 80%.

LED can also help to enhance the learning environment. Research has shown that when students are exposed to faulty lights such as fluorescent tubes that tend to flicker, sleep patterns can be drastically adjusted and academic results can go down.

Good quality LED lights avoid flicker and can be dimmed or adjusted so as not to be too bright or garish and distract learners. While LED lights have a higher purchase cost than traditional systems, their energy efficiency means that they have a relatively short payback time.

Unified glare rating or UGR, is designed to show how effective a light is at dealing with what can be a problem. Glare can affect the way people work and their well-being. The UGR rating ranges from 5 – 40 and while there are no statutory glare levels in the UK, the UGR rating is a good guide to backup common sense when fitting a light in a workplace.

The health and safety executive states that lighting in a workplace must fit the following requirements: does not cause glare or stroboscopic effects, allows people to notice hazards and assess risks, is suitable for the environment and the type of work being carried out, provide sufficient light on the task, allow people to discriminate between colours, does not cause excessive difference in luminance, suits the needs of those working in the environment, does not pose a health and safety risk in itself, is suitably positioned for safe and easy repair and includes emergency lighting, where necessary.

Water costs

Water systems in schools are usually outdated and budgets pressed hard in coping with maintenance costs, fixing broken water systems.

Water is obviously a scarce resource with costs rising rapidly. A school with water conservation devices can use less than half the water than those with no efficiency measures.

School washroom facilities can be extremely unhygienic, not least because they are so heavily used. Soap dispensers are often broken and toilets do not flush efficiently, wasting a lot of water. Hand dryers are often poor and cheap, leaving the hands moist and warm, which is a perfect environment for bacteria to proliferate.

An investigation by Dyson found that hand dryers must dry hands completely in less than 12 seconds to be hygienic. Hand dryers in schools often don’t work and are not considered to be the most important thing to repair but they are just as vital as the soap and taps when it comes to hygiene and it is a sound investment to spend on a good hand dryer.

Tap aerators are an economical fitting that can reduce water use by more than half by mixing air with the flow with no perceivable loss of pressure or flow and can be fitted with no hassle. By fitting an eco tap, water can be cut by up to 60%. Taps can also be fitted with infrared sensors so there is no need to touch the tap and so spread bacteria.

Gone are the days of multi-gallon cisterns but even now, with growing awareness of the need to conserve water, a standard toilet cistern often uses 9 litres per flush, while a traditional urinal can use up to 768 litres a day. Flow flow systems are a good solution, cutting water consumption by up to 84%.

Interest-free finance

To help with initial costs of energy and water saving solutions, Salix Finance delivers 100% interest-free capital to the public sector to improve their energy efficiency and reduce their carbon emissions.

There are two types of Salix funding programmes available. The first is the Salix Energy Efficient Loans Scheme. As an example, a school borrows £10,000 to put in new lighting and a new boiler, which will save the school £2,000 per annum from reduced gas and electricity usage.

For the first five years, these savings are used to pay back the interest-free loan. Once the loan is repaid, the continued savings enable the school to use the capital for other budgets, such as the purchase of equipment.

Recycling Fund

The second programme available is the Recycling Fund, which is a ring-fenced fund managed by the public-sector organisation, with money provided by the organisation and match-funded by Salix. The project loan is repaid into the fund from the financial savings delivered by the projects – this allows the fund to be continually used for energy efficiency projects, hence the term ‘Recycling Fund’.

At the same time the organisation continues to benefit from the savings that accumulate once the project has been fully repaid. Savemoneycutcarbon has its own dedicated team to guide the whole Salix process.

Energy efficient products greatly improve the working environment and the environment around us. Within the school, the pupils will not only benefit from efficient working machinery such as toilets, taps and hand dryers – they will also be reducing their carbon footprint.

Schools should set an example, an image for future life. Too often they are giving students the wrong idea of energy efficiency and this needs to change.

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