Renewables barely feature in building programme for 500 schools

(The Guardian, 18 Feb 2020) Solar panels, heat pumps and sustainable designs bypassed – but now one Somerset school is taking a stand

It is a modernist version of a log cabin nestling in a busy south London suburb – and it is about to make history. The new building for Hackbridge primary, in Sutton, opens next week as England’s first zero-carbon school, able to produce and conserve as much energy as it uses, and even put unused electricity generated back into the grid.

With its wood frame and cladding, solar panels, pumps to collect heat from the ground, and insulation made from recycled newspaper, it is the first school in England to meet the ambitious Passivhaus Plus low-energy design standard.

“The school will have no net demand on an annual basis, for electricity and no gas connection,” Architype, the architects, say.

Sadly, however, only a handful of the 500-plus schools being rebuilt or refurbished across the county through the government’s £4.3bn priority school building programme are installing renewable energy technology – and the Department for Education’s (DfE’s) recommended designs do not include renewables. Hackbridge’s new building was subsidised by Sutton council as part of its broader environmental strategy.

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The Guardian, 18 Feb 2020: Renewables barely feature in building programme for 500 schools