Ian Nicol 25 May 2021

Making marginal gains

Making marginal gains image

The roadmap to green recovery can seem intimidating for smaller public sector institutions, especially as eco-friendly implementations can seem costly. However, local infrastructure fixtures can be the small steps which suddenly generate marginal gains and create significant behavioural change.

A small school in rural Cumbria is setting an example for other institutions to improve their carbon emissions. Over the last decade, Leven Valley Primary School has demonstrated its commitment to reducing the carbon footprint of its estate, creating a sustainable, heat-efficient environment and preparing for the decarbonisation of heat.

Small steps towards big changes

I inherited the building 14 years ago, which was effectively a temporary structure built in 1928. The first step towards reducing carbon emissions and saving money for the school was to improve its insulation. Wherever possible, we tried to use natural materials, such as hemp based insulation. If there wasn't a natural material, we turned to recycled or sustainable waste product based solutions.

Over the years, the school has insulated all its walls internally and externally, as well as replacing old glazing by double glazing.

The next phase has involved implementing LED lighting throughout the school and installing 24.8 kilowatts of solar panels on the roof, as well as well as replacing old oil boilers with a ground source heat pump (GSHP) last August.

The latter was able to be carried out as the estate has an ideal soil for a project requiring 10 x 100m deep boreholes to be drilled for the pipe work to feed into the GSHP. The GSHP uses more electricity than the oil based system they had before. However, the solar PV system previously installed allows the school to generate some of the power needed and the rest is acquired through a renewable energy supplier.

This ground source heat pump project is expected to save Leven Valley an estimated £5,110 per year and reduce carbon emissions by 77%.

We’re hoping to encourage more schools to think about what they can do differently, one step at a time. We have had enquiries about what we're doing and how we're doing it off the back of us receiving funding from Salix Finance to install the GSHP. I believe at the time we were the first and only school to be to be awarded the grant for a ground source heat pump. Installing such a pump is expensive, more than just replacing oil boilers, but it results in significant carbon reductions and will hopefully prove to be a good long term investment.

Being awarded the grant, was the first time an outside organisation (Salix) recognised what we’ve been working towards for the past 14 years and it is great to have had that support and recognition.

Sinead Desmond, programme manager at Salix, added: 'We're delighted to see Leven Valley implementing so many carbon reduction measures and we're pleased to have been able to support them with the delivery of multiple energy-saving technologies. The school is a great example of how smaller public sector organisations can pave the way to a sustainable future, one implementation at a time. Like a jigsaw puzzle, each project helps the next one.'

Next moves

Leven Valley’s series of energy-efficiency improvements highlight how small institutions can put small adjustments into effect throughout the years to not only change eco behaviours locally, but to also contribute to the country’s collective net zero target.

The school is next hoping to install a micro hydro scheme. This would generate sufficient electricity to supply the heat pump in combination with the solar panels and make it a very real possibility for Leven Valley to become self-sufficient for electricity.

Further to this, Leven Valley School’s carbon reduction strategy does not limit itself at saving energy and money - it also aims to create a green learning environment for the school's 60 children - including his own - and its staff. We’ve always felt it's really important for children to come into contact with natural materials.

In the future, I would also like to install car charging points to encourage staff to think about electric vehicles, as well as replacing the school’s minibus with an electric model.

Ian Nicol is head of Leven Valley Primary School

SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Children's Social Workers and Senior Social Workers (Children Looked After)

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£32,427 to £44,658
Here in Wandsworth, we are on an exciting journey of transformation. Richmond upon Thames, London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Peripatetic Customer Services Adviser

Northumberland County Council
£20,444 - £22,129
Northumberland County Council operates a huge range of services across one of the largest counties in the UK. Northumberland
Recuriter: Northumberland County Council

Principal Engineer - York Central

City of York Council
£37,114 to £42,562
We have an exciting opening for an experienced highway design engineer. York, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: City of York Council

Senior Highway Adoptions Inspector

City of York Council
£31,887 to £36,380
We have an exciting opening for an experienced highway inspector. York, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: City of York Council

Highways Asset Engineer

Hackney London Borough Council
£37,260 - £38,148
Are you an experienced Asset Management professional looking for your next challenge? Hackney, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Hackney London Borough Council

Partner Content

Circular highways is a necessity not an aspiration – and it’s within our grasp

Shell is helping power the journey towards a circular paving industry with Shell Bitumen LT R, a new product for roads that uses plastics destined for landfill as part of the additives to make the bitumen.

Support from Effective Energy Group for Local Authorities to Deliver £430m Sustainable Warmth Funded Energy Efficiency Projects

Effective Energy Group is now offering its support to the 40 Local Authorities who have received a share of the £430m to deliver their projects on the ground by surveying properties and installing measures.

Pay.UK – the next step in Bacs’ evolution

Dougie Belmore explains how one of the main interfaces between you and Bacs is about to change.