Paul Shilling, Director at Rund speaks about how the construction industry needs to put more of a focus on developing schools fit for not only our future, but the next generation’s future as well - as seen in Building Magazine.
The way our industry plans and develops buildings is constantly changing. In our post-pandemic world, we’re seeing more innovative ways in which buildings are being developed, especially in the education sector.
The education sector in general has been under the spotlight this year. In July, government officials called for the Treasury to make extra billions available to increase the number of school rebuilding projects from 50 a year to more than 300. The school rebuilding programme, which was unveiled in three phases, currently has 161 live projects. These rebuilding projects were prioritised as they met one or more out of set criteria. However, the government has plans to confirm another set of prioritised schools before the end of the year. Future proofing our school buildings is critical and is something that needs concentration on for the benefit of our environment and children.
The government first launched the nomination process in early 2022, which closed swiftly at the end of March due to an influx of applications. Over 1,100 nominations were received, signalling a significant demand for school rebuilding projects.
Alongside initiatives such as this, adult education is also seeing an increase in demand as there is a growing mentality that we need to start developing educational buildings that are fit for purpose. The days of dark, small and unpleasant classrooms are over, and so they should be. As a society, we have talked extensively recently about the need for well-designed post-pandemic offices that can promote excellence, attract and retain the best workforce talent. Taking a step back, surely creating exceptional and inspiring school environments is key to unlocking a person’s potential?
The majority of the development industry pride themselves on delivering well-designed, high quality buildings - whether homes or offices - and now we’re seeing a lot more of these being delivered for education institutions at good value build prices relative to the challenging current climate.
A good example of this is ESCP Business School in North West London, where we are currently instructed as the Employers Agent. From the outset, we were told that the creation of additional seating space and co-working spaces for students was a number one priority, in line with the UK’s ever growing population. We firmly believe every student has a right to learn in a comfortable and welcoming space.
We’re also seeing a large focus on net-zero and sustainability credentials. School buildings consume 5.4 TWh electricity and 16.2 TWh natural gas annually, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). This can cause emissions of 4.1 million tonnes CO2 equivalent, out of which nearly three million tonnes are emitted by burning gas.
School buildings account for around two percent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Carbon Trust. If the development sector is to have any chance of achieving its net zero 2050 target, decarbonisation of current building stock, including independent schools, is essential.
There are more than 5,000 listed school buildings in England, and many are found in the independent sector, providing both a significant challenge and opportunity to bring them up to spec.
Overall, the delivery of new school buildings is constantly changing. No two school buildings are the same. The industry needs to put more of a focus on developing schools fit for not only our future but the next generation’s future as well.