Academy schools pushing up education carbon footprint

Academy schools - a favourite of the current Conservative led administration - could be pushing up the education sector's carbon footprint through increased energy use, according to new research.

The work, by a combined team of English and Thai researchers, indicates newly built academy buildings have not been constructed with energy efficiency as a priority.

Overall energy use in schools is on the increase according to the work, which was released today (November 1), and comes despite a fall in demand for heating

And according to the work academy schools, those funded directly by government and without local authority control, are making the highest energy demands.

The researchers, a combined team from the University of Cambridge and Shinawatra University in Thailand, found the information after trawling through around 25,000 Display Energy Certificates (DECs) produced between 2008 and 2009 following an FOI request.

According to the findings CO2 emissions from schools in England are rising, despite reductions to their heating demands, because of an increase in electricity consumption, according to new research.

Taking account of the different pupil densities typical CO2 emissions per pupil were found to be 47% higher in secondary schools and 116% higher in academies, both compared with primary schools.

The study suggests new academies have ‘significantly higher’ energy consumption compared to traditional secondary schools.

The report argues this is because they tend to be ‘new builds’ with more ‘state-of-the-art’ facilities.

University of Cambridge head of the department of architecture and one of the authors of the report, professor Koen Steemers, said: “This research shows design strategies to reduce heat loss have been moderately effective but have been offset by increasing electricity demands, for mechanical ventilation, lighting or equipment.

“In the context of national and international targets to reduce emissions, the paper establishes the need for continued monitoring and research into the relative roles of building design, systems and occupant behaviour to ensure that the emissions trend is downwards.”

The full findings are published in the latest issue of the journal Building Research & Information.

Luke Walsh

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