Schneider Electric offers school of thought on government refurbishment programme
As details of the £2.4bn school refurbishment programme emerge, Schneider Electric has welcomed the news which will significantly boost industry, whilst asserting sustainability must remain a focus.
Under the Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP), the Department for Education has confirmed that 261 schools, out of 587 applicants, will be either rebuilt or refurbished to meet the required standard. The schools in the worst condition are those that require investment. As part of the funding for the project, the government has sourced £400m in efficiency savings from the capital programme, including monies from the axed Building Schools for the Future fund, to kickstart the first 42 schools most in need.
Naturally, this has come as much welcome news for contractors which have, of course, suffered over recent years due to the drastic decline in both commercial and public sector contracts. However, Schneider Electric is asserting that the opportunity should be viewed not only in commercial terms but as an opportune time for contractors to embrace the full scope of sustainable practices in order to truly pave a greener path for the future of the UK.
This is particularly pertinent that, despite being the subject of recent reviews, the BREEAM certification remains in place; the environmental rating method for school building designed to ensure value for money through efficiency and long term sustainability.
James Thackrah, country segment manager for Education at Schneider Electric, commented, ‘It is fantastic to see that the government is investing so much funding capital in the regeneration of the UK educational structure. Of course, the boost to employment will come as a major plus for the construction sector, which has long felt the brunt of the turbulent economy. However, it is crucial that sustainable strategy remains at the forefront from the start.
‘It’s all about those in the supply chain. Under the BREEAM certification, value for money through efficiency is paramount; from the early construction and design through to the long term building performance. Therefore, from the initial architects and specifiers through to the contractor and builders, it is vital there is a collective working towards sustainable development. In this way, we can create a solid platform to showcase the smart educational institution of the future, which encapsulates the full possibilities available on sustainable strategy. Only then can we help to lessen any impact on the environment while, in turn, building a brighter Britain for generations to come.’
Notably, as the government sets out on its procurement process, efficiency remains high on the agenda. Already, significant efficiency savings have been made by driving down the cost of new schools, shortening procurement times and challenging contractors to look for savings in all areas.
The PSBP will build even further on this progress, with a concerted focus on delivering a more efficient, leaner, less restricted approach to building schools. Covering everything from building procedures through to product choices, the government has stated that it is committed to drive out all waste with the introduction of new baseline designs to speed up the process and increase efficiencies, thereby reducing overall cost.
James Thackrah added, ‘This is the time for contractors to truly go beyond the traditional remit and position themselves as energy efficiency champions, in order to stand out and retain a real competitive edge.
‘This requires a holistic, acute approach. Before jumping in at the deep end with sustainable technologies, it is vital to first gain a full understanding of the build’s energy requirements. Then there are, of course, the basic sustainable technologies, the option of automation and finally the ability to monitor, maintain and improve by continuously assessing energy consumption and patterns of usage; it is about ensuring optimum efficiency from the conception and having the means to retain it.
‘In order to prepare for the imminent opportunities the programme presents, contractors should act now by researching all the latest technologies and sustainable practices, in order to maximise their offer and, in turn, profit potential.’