Delivering net zero learning spaces – a hot topic at Education Building Wales

We were delighted to be an event sponsor at this year’s Education Building Wales which took place at Cardiff University on 23 June.

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Delegates sat watching a presentation in a seminar room

Our Strategic Advisor for Education, Jane O’Leary, and Senior Sustainability Manager, Rhodri Davies joined an enlightening session on optimising net zero carbon in operation, alongside Joanna Clarke from Swansea University and chaired by Neil Thomas from the-learning-crowd. 

Jane and Rhodri explained that Welsh Government has made a commitment that all new schools delivered in Wales will be net zero carbon in operation, for the sake of the climate and our future generations.

Accurate measurement of a building’s operational energy performance is therefore at the forefront of decision-making for building professionals and occupiers. Unlike traditional environmental certifications this does not rely solely on the design and construction quality, but also the operational practices within the building and the maintenance procedures which are adhered to.

By remotely monitoring our buildings which have been designed and constructed to ‘net zero in operation’ standards, we are able to use real-time data to understand how a building is performing, and compare it against predications from the thermal model of in use energy. This allows us to assess the accuracy of current modelling tools, determine if the building is being commissioned correctly, and identify how committed occupiers are to operating buildings at net zero carbon.

Exterior of south point primary school
Jane referenced South Point Primary School which was recently delivered by ISG in the Vale of Glamorgan. It is Wales’ first net zero carbon school, and the revolutionary design means greenhouse gas emissions will be slashed, neutralising the building’s environmental impact.

“We will be sharing data with Welsh Government and local authorities so everyone can learn from it. As with lots of designs the proof will be once we have been in it for some time. We are monitoring the building for five years because this is a first for Wales, so we won’t have got everything right.”

Jane O'Leary, Strategic Advisor for Education

Rhodri spoke about ISG’s project with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), a world first when it comes to delivering a sustainable retrofitted office environment. The ‘Entopia building’, is a deep green retrofit of a 1930’s building which has been developed to Passivhaus standards. With high ambitions for embodied carbon and a key focus on the reuse of materials – it is about changing the mindset of the industry and making sustainable retrofit a thing of the present.  

We are using our Performing Places operational performance system to monitor the operational energy efficiency against design predictions. Learning from these pioneering projects can then be fed back into the design and operation of future learning spaces and beyond for the benefit of all.

A key learning point from the session was that the end user is the crucial factor in continued project performance and so involving them as an integral part of the design process can help to ensure success.

Delegate exploring the exhibition area
Jane and Rhodri were on hand to discuss their session with guests at the ISG-sponsored networking drinks to round off an informative day, along with colleagues from the ISG team in Wales.
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