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Sustainability strategies are imperative for both educational and environmental reasons, setting the stage for future generations to be aware of their impact on the planet. By integrating sustainable practices and energy-saving schemes into operations, schools can reduce their carbon footprint and save money at the same time.
In this article we have explored the five main steps to creating a sustainability strategy for a school.
Obtaining senior-level sponsorship or political support for the project is essential, as this clear leadership will then guide colleagues throughout the organisation.
An example of facilitating senior level support could be getting a CEO or Chair of Trustees to provide a statement about the new policy or write the foreword. This statement should outline intent and vision and demonstrate your commitment to energy and sustainability. It should also highlight what the Board of Trustees and Executive Teams will be doing to improve the environmental performance of schools and ensure the success of the new sustainability strategy. A public carbon reduction commitment will make people aware of the project and help to keep things on track.
When creating a sustainability strategy, you need to determine what your main reasons are for doing so. For instance, are you looking to save money, reduce carbon emissions, or both? Also, consider what your end goal is and how quickly you want to get there. This will help you to set smaller, more focused sustainability and energy goals.
Energy efficiency is only one part of your organisation’s overall sustainability goal. Action to address energy efficiency typically focusses on energy procurement, reduction of energy consumption, generating energy and changing building user behaviours. Setting realistic and achievable targets for each of these individual areas can help you to reduce carbon emissions wherever possible. These goals are at the heart of any sustainability strategy.
To ensure you prepare the best plan, you need to understand your current position on the decarbonisation journey. Key metrics like energy consumption and carbon footprint will help you determine just how much work is required to achieve your goals.
Comparing the current amount of gas being consumed with your target for reduced gas consumption or the amount of energy you’re currently generating on-site to the amount of energy you want to be self-generating, for instance, will help you understand the gap.
This part of the process may require you to undertake energy audits to help you review where you are right now. Detailed energy audits will provide information about usage and utilities, such as when energy consumption is at its highest and which systems are using the most energy. During an audit, assessments can also be conducted to identify energy opportunities, from whether solar PV panels can be installed to where LED lighting can be used.
Using all of the information collated so far, you can create an action plan to determine the best works to help you reach your pre-determined goals. There are several things to consider when comparing activities and projects, from cost estimates and funding options to the complexity of implementation and the impact they’re going to make.
Having decided which activities and projects to include in your action plan, you should look at the phasing and prioritisation of works. This will enable you to create a roadmap that details the order in which you’re going to tackle them. It’s often beneficial to prioritise actions that provide maximum impact and savings at the earliest opportunity – seeing positive results quite quickly can help to maintain momentum and drive further change.
Once the scope of work is agreed upon and any required funding is obtained, you need to develop an implementation plan. This plan should match your roadmap and cause minimal disruptions to day-to-day operations. Commonly, a Project Team will be assembled and tasked with ensuring the successful delivery of works.
Collecting and analysing data plays a key role in measuring the success of activities and projects. Monitoring how effective different works have been at helping you reach your goals enables you to adjust your action plan accordingly. In addition to critically reviewing the impact of your actions, be sure to celebrate successes.
Setting reporting parameters and presenting data is an ongoing process that will help ensure the success of your overall sustainability strategy. It will enable you to benchmark the data against others too and make strategic decisions to continue reducing the school’s carbon emissions year after year, while reaping the benefits of doing so.
To help you get started, Barker has created an education-specific policy template for schools and trusts to follow:
Author: Robert Gould FRICS