Achieving Energy Efficient Education

Plutarch, greek historian.
Plutarch, greek historian. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I would rather that schools spent their money on books, and inspirational teachers than waste it on energy.

So before sending you back to school for today's lesson I want to give you a fantastic quote from which this post unashamedly draws inspiration.

This is by Plutarch and very probably the source of a quote often attributed wrongly to Yeats:

We must encourage (each other ) - once we have grasped the basic points - to interconnecting everything else on our own, to use memory to guide our original thinking, and to accept what someone else says as a starting point, a seed to be nourished and grow.
(This means you have to make comments below - Plutarch said so !)

English: 3rd Servile war, Plutarch
English: 3rd Servile war, Plutarch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling but wood that needs igniting - no more - and then it motivates one towards originality and instills the desire for truth.
(The source of "Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire")

Suppose someone were to go and ask his neighbors for fire and find a substantial blaze there, and just stay there continually warming himself: that is no different from someone who goes to someone else to get to some of his rationality, and fails to realize that he ought to ignite his own flame, his own intellect, but is happy to sit entranced by the lecture, and the words trigger only associative thinking and bring, as it were, only a flush to his cheeks and a glow to his limbs; but he has not dispelled or dispersed, in the warm light of philosophy, the internal dank gloom of his mind.

(See - if you don't contribute there will be a dank gloom of your mind !)

(Now read it again it's quite brilliant)

Canyons School District
Canyons School District (Photo credit: Utah State Library)

So (gentle reader) if your are not entirely without hope, you agree with me. Trusting that this is the case let's take a walk through the problem of energy waste in schools and how they should be handled....

Not all schools are the same. This is the key fact to consider. It is more true of schools than most other types of buildings (but some generalizations hold)

So for the sake of discussion we are going to pick a metropolitan day-school in an area where heating is needed in winter and cooling is not provided in summer.

Some initial thoughts to warm the cockles of your mind !

What should a monitoring programme look like ? Monitoring and looking for exceptions implies a need to compare like with like. Pretty soon we see that issues surrounding occupancy patterns are more complex in a school than in 90% of other buildings.

There are holidays - Energy use in holidays should be very different than energy use during semester or term-time. 

Holidays may vary from school district to school district (e.g. in Germany/ Switzerland or be standard nationally e.g. UK) 

This can creates a bureaucratic consolidation nightmare for large school portfolio management

There are holidays in winter of longer duration than offices, factories, homes, hotels or prisons (even if school felt like prison to you) - This implies a need for fabric and or frost protection (preventing freezing pipes or condensation damage etc). Frost and fabric protection methods vary hugely from country to country varying from drain down of wet systems, construction resilience, relative humidity based ventilation strategies (free - drying) or simply running boilers year round !!!  (Contact us for a free simple primer on boiler sequencing for adequate protection) 

School hours vary by day of week - and there may be extra-curricular evening activities to provide support for.

Electrical loads do not involve chilling, but should typically relate to daylight hours (and cloud cover) so there is a big question in far of how well your weather data satisfies electrical monitoring needs.

Optimum start is often a must, with typically large distributed wet-heating systems circuits and very high surface-area-to-volume ratios (lots of peripheral heating).

Summer heating shutdown policy - what is it?- when does it happen? under what circumstances? 

Young children are more vulnerable to cold, dehydration and various air-quality issues.

Radiators should be low-temperature as a safety policy.

Controls should be child-proof (try defining that ! )

Does the school have swimming pools - does this effect the controls strategy or is there dedicated plant ?

If there are pools, what is the appropriate ratio of fresh water make-up and replacement to chemical treatment (how does this effect heating costs) ?

Is domestic hot water safe (temperature limits and legionellae) ? 

Now considering the above - please ask yourself one single question ? 

How do they manage to spend money on books and inspiration where your child goes to school? Is it a reasonable expectation of the staff responsible? Usually (from our general experience) implementing simple procedures can save 15%-20% of heating costs without capital investments. Work out what that means to you and think about what you could organize with those resources. Try contacting a local heating company and getting simple monitoring plan implemented and start with a simple smart-metering strategy if you have not already.

If you are responsible for large portfolios of schools and have data available - please do get in touch. We can provide low cost solutions and are passionate about getting it right.

Final thoughts - This is a huge subject - so please add to the discussion below (on the blog preferably rather than on linkedIn where under 1% of readers see your comments !)