The challenges facing Britain’s further and higher education sectors are well documented. Universities and colleges are contending with decreasing numbers of students and shrinking budgets while they are forced to compete for an increasingly competitive and globalised student market.
Impressing prospective scholars with academic excellence, as well as strong job prospects upon graduation, is undoubtedly a key part of attracting the best students to a university. Equally, it’s important to provide a learning environment, with accommodation to match, that impresses students and their parents alike.
Education facilities across the country have announced big investment in their campuses over the past few years, ranging from student accommodation projects to academic buildings.
This scale of investment in construction of any kind can have a significant impact on a sector’s carbon footprint. With building regulations and public sector sustainability targets becoming increasingly ambitious, the education sector has to realise these impressive projects within tighter emissions objectives.
This begs the question: how do universities, colleges and schools, meet the challenge of delivering sustainable campuses that will attract students from an increasingly competitive market, during a time of restricted budgets?
Key to their success has been a mixture of benefits afforded by the use of a sustainable building material such as timber, in combination with a ‘fabric first’ approach to construction.
Such an approach to building sees a structure’s sustainability achieved through its construction fabric. This eliminates the need for expensive and unsightly bolt-ons such as photo-voltaics and renewable energy generators to adhere to building regulations. To get the most out of this approach means using a high performance building fabric which maximises thermal performance and minimises air leakage from the outset, resulting in a reduced need for energy.
A fabric first approach also guarantees the building’s performance over its lifespan, without the need for additional maintenance. It decreases the need for occupants to use energy through fabric performance and design, rather than by relying on the end-user learning how to use complex devices and building controls. This makes for a simple, easy to use building with low upkeep.