Laura Sharman 04 January 2018

Greening the school estate

Greening the school estate image

Modern methods of construction have long been held up as a way of saving money when delivering new schools or other public buildings. Now, a new report has laid bare exactly how much could be saved if all schools were built using modern building technologies.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) has found that off-site, modular construction could save the Department for Education £2.6bn a year - the equivalent of 5% of its annual budget.

It examined the cost savings of using Schoolhaus® buildings, which boast of being the UK’s most energy efficient buildings. Created by Net Zero Buildings, the schools are constructed off-site using state-of-the art modular techniques.

The Cebr report certainly backs up this claim, finding that if 2,000 schools were built as Schoolhaus® buildings rather than more traditional buildings, the annual savings from energy, operation and maintenance costs alone would be £349m.

Sean Slack, an economist at Cebr, said: ‘Our report shows that the Schoolhaus® design can provide clear economic benefits through its energy efficiency, low operation and maintenance costs and capital costs. The analysis indicates that, together, these benefits would bring value for money to the public sector.’

Speaking at the recent Education Estates event, Neil Gething, chief executive officer at Net Zero Buildings, explained that the savings that can be achieved through modern methods of construction could not be under-estimated. ‘The savings generated effectively pay for the capital costs of the building over a 25-30 year period,’ he said.

The report also studied the impact 20 year operating leases would have on the future of school buildings. It found that a shift from a purchase to a leasing model would save £1.45m over a 60 year period. This equates to a saving of 22% compared to traditional builds.

In fact, it goes even further and reveals that if the lower capital costs of the Schoolhaus® design are factored into the analysis, the saving would actually increase to £1.85m over 60 years.

Mr Gething adds: ‘With pupil numbers forecast to grow by around 10% between now and 2026, it’s clear that innovative solutions are required to ease the pressing need for new school buildings. This report shows that the Government has an opportunity to meet this demand, save money and help to protect the environment.

‘60% of current school buildings were built before 1976, using outdated and inefficient technologies. They are already struggling to meet the growing demand for new pupil places and are sapping billions from the UK’s education budget. Schoolhaus® is a truly unique solution that shows how modern technology can address this issue while saving money from the public purse at the same time.’

He concludes: ‘If new construction techniques are available to us that can deliver better learning environments with lower running costs….why wouldn’t you?’

This feature first appeared in Public Property magazine. Email l.sharman@hgluk.com to sign up for regular free copies.

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