Modelling Tool Reveals Cost of Sustainability in Britain's Schools

Dale Potts
The added cost of achieving excellent levels of sustainability performance in the next generation of Britain’s schools could be as little as £20 a square metre.

The company, part of the Atkins group, has looked in detail at the ways in which school designers can achieve the different sustainability criteria set out in the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). This quotes four levels of performance: pass; good; very good and excellent. There is an expectation that this standard will become mandatory early in 2005.

Sean Lockie, from Faithful+Gould’s whole life cost team explains "It should be entirely practicable to design a school that will achieve a ‘pass’ or ‘good’ categorisation without adding to construction cost. Our model indicates that achieving a ‘very good’ rating will add around £15 to £20 a square metre. This rises to £20 to £30 a square metre in the case of the ‘excellent’ category. These costs assume compliance with DfES Building Bulletin 87, which deals with energy and carbon dioxide emissions, and Bulletin 93, which covers acoustics. The cost range is largely dictated by the different sizes of school."

This may seem a fair amount of money when linked to the size of a typical secondary school (about 13,000m²) or primary school (around 2,300m²). However, it remains a relatively small percentage of the total. These costs equate to an increase in the range of 1.5 to 3 per cent to achieve ‘very good’ status and 3 to 5 per cent to attain an 'excellent' rating.

Careful design and planning can have a genuine impact on sustainability performance. In particular, issues to be considered will relate to building orientation. A correctly positioned structure will provide the opportunity for cross-ventilation and enhanced daylight penetration – both offering the opportunity to reduce long term energy costs.

Selection of materials is clearly an important area. Here, too, some opportunities exist to choose the sustainable option at 'nil cost'. A good example is the use of timber with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approval. This is a timber which comes from a sustainably managed source. Such material used to be more expensive but market demand and increased availability have combined to put costs in line with their less environmentally friendly alternatives.

Reaching BREEAM’s higher categorisation levels can be achieved through a range of measures that may include, for example, bigger windows, improved 'U' values, more zonal control of heating, daylight sensors and more sophisticated building management systems, as well as other factors such as high ceilings for increased daylight penetration and low NOx boilers.