Learning Places Scotland 2021 - Articles

23 Nov 2021

Low Carbon - Day 1

The theme of this session was “low carbon” which included two presentations. The first discussed pathfinder projects as part of the Net Zero Public Building Standard, presented by a representative from Scottish Futures Trust (SFT). While the second reviewed two early years projects comparing traditional design versus Passivhaus, presented by representatives from Hub South East, Morrison Construction and Scott Brownrigg Architects.

Early Years Programme Passivhaus Vs Traditional

The Net Zero Public Building Standard was developed by the Scottish Government in partnership with stakeholders such as SFT. It recognises that we’re in the midst of a climate emergency, and we need to start addressing its challenges and impact now. To avoid ambiguity about what the public sector needs to do, the standard addresses this using three factors – place, carbon and environment. These factors will support public new builds and major refurbishments. The standard will guide its users through the design and development of their project, prioritising existing buildings over new builds where appropriate, as well as remediating projects that don’t go to plan through procedures and structures in place. It additionally promotes setting sustainable targets from the outset. It ultimately prioritises constructing resilient, sustainable places that drive inclusive economic growth.

At present, the standard has been tested on 10 projects; all of which had set goals in relation to environmental performance that the standard helped to support and enhance. One project discussed was St Sophia’s. This is a primary school which dates back to the 1950s and is valued by its local community in East Ayrshire – contributing to the decision to make it a refurbishment project. It followed an “EnerPHit” approach; which is essentially the retrofit version of Passivhaus. Work is due to start onsite in April 2022 and on completion will be the first school in the UK to achieve EnerPHit certification. Other facilities discussed throughout this session were Dunfermline Learning Campus, Maybury Primary School and Health Centre and Penicuik High School.

Bathgate’s Comparison Projects

In 2018, West Lothian Council (WLC) assessed the response to the nearly doubled 1140 funded hours policy for early years and childcare, increasing stress on the existing estate. It was decided that two new build facilities would be developed in Bathgate, namely Blackridge Primary and St. Mary’s Primary. A range of organisations contributed to the success of these projects including WLC, Morrison Construction, Hub South East and Scott Brownrigg.

In recent years Passivhaus has gained recognition as a means of reducing carbon and addressing the climate crisis; however this approach has primarily been used in residential projects. Given the timing, there was leeway to conduct a feasibility report which identified the opportunity to conduct comparison research between the projects through their identical briefs and floorplans. It was decided that St Mary’s would follow a traditional approach, whereas Blackridge would follow the Passivhaus approach. Similarities between the projects are that both utilise fully electric air source heat pumps and at base-build had environmental monitors installed to continuously monitor CO2 levels, humidity and temperature. Key differences, on the other hand, include air tightness, U values and natural versus mechanical ventilation.

With both projects having been completed in the last year, their 3 year post occupancy evaluations are underway to gather quantitative and qualitative data. Initial findings indicate that Blackridge has better acoustics, thermal comfort, a sense of calm and lower CO2 levels. Interestingly, although anecdotal at present, staff at Blackridge also stated they had seen less colds and sickness in their pupils – which was a concern given that multiple people would be gathered in an enclosed space where germs could circulate. A key lesson was that it’s not only a learning process for the end users (i.e. pupils and teachers), but also for those involved at every stage of such a project. Through educating our end users we can achieve net zero in operation in the coming years.

It’s evident that collaboration and engagement from an abundance of stakeholders is required to successfully determine the right path to achieve low-to-zero carbon solutions, and of course, making the most of data to drive decisions to improve the future of Scotland’s learning estate.

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