Understanding Your Energy Usage in Your School Building

Energy usage in school buildings is one of the important factors to look at when trying to manage a school in a more sustainable way. The amount of energy used, coupled with where it comes from, is one important factor that determines the carbon footprint of the school. 

When thinking about sustainability and energy usage, you need to think about where the energy you use comes from, and how it is generated. It is important to make the switch away from fossil fuels, and towards renewable sources of power such as solar and wind. Where possible installing off grid solutions on the school premises, or alternatively switching to a renewable energy tariff from a sustainable supplier. 

Switching away from finite and polluting energy sources is a significant step, it is also important to look at reducing energy use, understanding energy usage in your school building can help you see how and where energy use can be reduced. On average savings of 5-20% can be achieved by better energy management.

In this article, we’ll take a look at energy usage in some key areas, and talk briefly about how you might be able to reduce that energy usage by taking some simple, straightforward steps:

Lighting 

If you have already taken some steps to reduce energy use and make your school more sustainable, you may already have replaced lighting with more efficient, low-energy LED bulbs. This is the key step to take if you have not done so already.

Whether or not you have the most energy efficient lighting possible, there are also other simple steps that you can take to reduce lighting energy needs. 

  • Switch off lights when there is sufficient daylight – don’t automatically have lights on all the time. 
  • Installing motion sensor in classrooms, corridors and toilets can be undertaken for a relatively low cost and will deliver savings immediately. 
  • Keep windows clean to make sure natural daylight is optimised.
  • Add and adjust blinds to deliver just the right level of light throughout the day.
  • Teach classes outdoors whenever possible. 

Heating/ Cooling

Good building design in the first place can make a big difference when it comes to heating and cooling requirements and efficiency. Good architectural design can use passive solar techniques to optimise a sustainable building. 

In an existing school building, strategies to reduce energy use will involve choosing the right heating/cooling system and improving the fabric of the building to increase efficiencies. 

  • Consider geothermal/ heat recovery systems and other sustainable systems.
  • Open the right windows and doors to aid air flow and keep spaces cool in summer. 
  • Pay attention to the building envelope. Make sure the structure is draft free and in good repair. Add insulation where possible to improve efficiency.
  • Use blinds and window coverings wisely to regulate temperatures. 
  • Make sure heating and cooling only comes on when it is really required.
  • Teach outdoors and consider outdoors learning when possible. 

Computing/ Technology

In the modern school technology accounts for a proportion of your energy usage, computers, devices and other technology are obviously key items to consider and are naturally part and parcel of a modern teaching environment. 

It is also important to cultivate an ethos in which everything is switched off when not in use. Considerable amounts of energy are still utilised when equipment is in standby mode. 

Staff and pupils should all be encouraged to play a role in making sure energy that does not need to be used is not being used on a daily basis. 

Cooking/ Refrigeration

The school kitchen is a key area for energy consumption, energy is used in the preparation, and refrigeration of food. 

Ensuring the efficiency of all kitchen appliances is key Look for appliances which use as little energy as possible when procuring new items for school use. 

Kitchen preparation and layout can also be key to reducing energy use. Small things like where fridges are positioned can also make a difference to energy use. A refrigerator in a warm position will have to work much harder than one positioned in a cooler spot. 

Staff should also be trained and advised in such a way that they cook and prepare as efficiently as possible. Ovens might be used less frequently, for example, if more than one dish is prepared at once. Small steps can add up to big differences in energy use over time. 

Tools and Equipment

Tools and equipment might be used around a school and in classrooms. Workshops and janitorial spaces should be fitted out, again, with tools and pieces of equipment which are as sustainable and low-energy use as possible.

Maintaining school grounds is one area where improvements could be made. For example, a school with a large playing field should consider landscaping which uses less energy to maintain. A large mono-culture grass lawn is not as sustainable or eco-friendly as other planting schemes, such as a meadow which needs mowing less frequently, food producing gardens, or a thriving and abundant food forest. And of course, more diverse planting in school grounds won’t just save energy. It will also bring a range of other benefits.

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