Lighting the way to happier school children

The right classroom lighting can have a dramatic effect on children’s school experience

September is here and the new school year begins with a flurry of crisp new uniform, freshly stocked pencil cases and diligently labelled clothes.  This week, teachers, headteachers and leadership teams will be welcoming new ‘ kindergarteners’ at the school gates for the first time and looking forward to helping returning pupils settle into senior years, it’s a time of new beginnings.

Many parents and schools will also be busy thinking ahead, planning for the influx of new pupils joining in the next year’s intake. As the deadline for 2018 applications approaches, parents will be comparing class sizes, Ofsted reports, reputations and the quality of the pastoral care. While within school buildings, staff will be looking over forthcoming refurbishment, building and maintenance programmes, improving the quality of the learning environment itself and acknowledging the massive impact it has on children’s sponge-like brains.

Modern classrooms – flexible, welcoming and healthier

Today’s classroom experience is virtually unrecognisable from what it was 20 years ago – pupils are no longer restricted to traditional desks, laid out in inflexible rows under the glare of flickering fluorescent lights. Instead, teaching is immersive and interactive, with children working together in clusters. And huge advances have been made in the way we illuminate our classrooms too; there are many ways schools can dramatically improve a child’s experience by ditching fluorescent lighting in favour of modern LEDs.

Ditch the strips

On a basic level, a classroom or library lit with evenly diffused, LED lighting looks like a significantly more inviting space than one illuminated by glaring fluorescent strips. Traditional fluorescent lighting flickers, which is thought to be tiring on the eye and be a possible cause of headaches. LED lighting doesn’t have these unpleasant side effects.

Schools which have phased out traditional fluorescent strip lights in favour of adaptable LED lighting often report dramatic improvements in pupil concentration, behaviour and of course, performance. Modern LED lighting more closely mimics daylight, which helps children’s eyes work more efficiently and means they get less tired.

The result? They’ll find reading easier and more enjoyable. A study in Hamburg showed that using the right lighting increased the reading speed by over a third.

Colour control

A massive benefit of modern LED lighting is that the colour and intensity can be adjusted throughout the day, to suit pupils’ evolving needs and get the best out of them depending on their activity.

A brighter light can be used early in the day or during tests, to stimulate the circadian rhythm, make children alert and boost their concentration – studies in South Korea show that children achieved higher scores under bright LED lighting than under fluorescent strips. During break time or in after school care, LED lighting can be adjusted to a warmer temperature, creating a more relaxing atmosphere and soothing restless youngsters.

Better for pupils, staff and budgets

Let’s not forget the teachers! The more optimised their working environment, the better their classes will be. As Raj Gunasekaran, Business Development Manager at Energys Group, says: “Improved lighting often translates to happier pupils and staff, meaning increased productivity and quality of work.”

LED lighting can easily be installed in modern schools and retrofitted in older buildings with minimum disruption. Long term, it also has big cost savings. Schools don’t need a big budget to install new lighting. Projects that improve an institute’s energy efficiency qualify for interest-free Government funding, through Salix Finance.

 

Act now: Applications for Salix HE ‘Revolving Green Fund’ close in October 2017

In the Higher Eduction (HE) sector, energy efficiency has a huge amount to offer.

After all, the Carbon Trust estimates that through efficiency, UK schools and institutions could reduce energy costs by around £44 million per year, which would prevent 625,000 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

That’s to say nothing of the benefits to children and teachers from more efficient, comfortable buildings to learn and work in.

Salix Fund extended

Given efficiency’s remarkable potential to help its encouraging news that the Salix Fund, which offers a number of financing solutions, is calling for applications for  interest-free funding for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in England through the Revolving Green Fund, with applications being accepted until 27th October.

Energys is delighted by this news. Almost half of all HEIs in England worked with Salix on energy efficiency projects in the last financial year, resulting in the completion of projects utilising over £20m from Salix managed programmes.

As well as impressive carbon emissions savings, these projects will see annual energy bill savings of £4m annually and £63m over the lifetime of the projects.

What kind of work can Salix cash catalyse?

Crucially, Salix money can go towards over 120 energy efficiency technologies, and Salix is able to support programmes of work spanning multiple years.

The work might cover building management systems, boiler improvements, or LED retrofits, all technical solutions which, here at Energys, we can help with.

“HEIs might want to look at suites of work, across the varying retrofit requirements they might have,” comments Kevin Cox, Managing Director, Energys.

“Energy efficiency can make a massive difference in HEIs across the country. Historically, the challenge has been getting the cash upfront to make the improvements happen.

“That’s understandable; those tasked with managing HEI budgets have a complex role, with many disparate elements battling for priority.

“Therefore, the right funding and financing streams make such a positive difference. We’re delighted to already work with HEIs and Salix, so we have the experience that counts.”

HEI funding; don’t hesitate

There really is nothing to lose from investigating what scope Salix has to benefit your HEI, so Salix advises interested parties to follow the link to the application page.

Or, simply contact us at Energys, for help on the opportunities available.

Rugby High School enjoys ‘significantly improved’ illumination from energy saving LED upgrade

The comprehensive LED-based lighting upgrade is expected to deliver annual savings of £12.5K and a return on investment of only 4.5 years.

Increasing instances of lamp failure, a recognition that the quality of the illumination could be better, and a desire to take advantage of energy savings accruing from the latest LED technology informed a recent upgrade at Rugby High School in Warwickshire. The major, site-wide overhaul was undertaken by Energys Group and funded by Utility Rentals’ operational lease scheme.

As the school’s Business Manager, Allan Kerr, explains, “it had been clear for a while that the old lighting was nearing the end of its useful life. Lamps were beginning to fail on a more regular basis, meaning that we were spending more money on replacements and maintenance. In addition, we were working on plans for a new sports hall, and if we had kept with the existing lighting we would have had to increase our electricity supply.”

Having engaged the services of energy efficiency technology specialist Energys Group to advise on the project, it quickly became clear that a comprehensive LED lighting upgrade would both reduce demand on supply and enable substantial energy savings. Consequently, the two parties began work on a lighting overhaul to encompass the main hall, music theatre, classrooms, science labs, gym, sports hall, corridors, staircases, communal areas and the languages block.

‘Dramatic improvement’

The resulting installation draws on LED products from across the Energys Group range, and includes tubes, panels, down-lighters, spotlights, wall-lights, outdoor fittings and flood-lights. Mere weeks after the project was completed – with a minimum of disruption to the operational practices of the school – it was evident to school management and personnel quite how much of an improvement the new systems had delivered.

“For the first few weeks after the deployment staff kept coming up to me to remark upon the new lighting. In particular, the increased standard of illumination in the main hall, gym and science labs was singled out for specific praise,” recalls Kerr.

Whilst the quality of the lighting was immediately apparent, its benefits in terms of energy savings will become more evident over the medium to long-term. As a result of the massive upgrade – which ran to 712 new LED lamps and 575 LED fittings – Energys predicts a return on investment of just 4.5 years. Annual energy savings are expected to total £12.5K and approximately 104,985 kWh’s, with a reduction in CO2 emissions of 55.84 tonnes per year.

Raj Gunasekaran, Business Development Manager at Energys Group, says that “the improvement in lighting conditions across the entire site is very discernible, and of course the energy savings are also going to be very welcome – particularly in the current challenging economic climate for the education sector. But it’s also important to highlight that improved lighting often translates to happier pupils and staff, meaning increased productivity and quality of work.”

‘Brilliant scheme’

However, there is another important element in the mix here and that is the funding provided by Utility Rentals. Having investigated some other schemes but concluded that they were unlikely to deliver the finance in the necessary time-frame, Kerr instead applied to the Utility Rentals operational lease initiative, with Energys Group providing guidance and assistance throughout the process.

As Utility Rentals director Steve Mattey explains, the scheme is fast, guaranteed and “available for any school in the country – no matter what size or establishment type. The rental scheme is cash-positive from day one, with repayments covered by the energy costs saved. The repayments are also fixed and won’t go up year on year, and can even be deferred until 12 months after the lighting has been installed.”

The Rugby High School application was successful, and Kerr reports that he was struck by “how straightforward the process proved to be. I am also pleased with the fact that if any failures occur, replacements will be provided at no cost. It really does take the risk element out of what has been a substantial undertaking.”

Reflecting on the completion of another comprehensive lighting upgrade in the education sector, Gunasekaran says that “the benefits Rugby High School is now experiencing as a result of implementing the latest LED lighting technology are now increasingly commonplace throughout this market. At Energys we are able to support this transition with a comprehensive range of LED solutions, so it’s no surprise that we have many comparable projects on the agenda for the rest of 2017.”

Hackney Community College saves £25K a year with second major Salix-funded LED lighting upgrade

Following a successful LED conversion project by Energys Group in 2015, 2016 has seen the East London college make a further investment in the latest Energys lighting technology.

Energys estimates that combined savings of the two projects will be £95K per year.

During the second half of 2015, Hackney Community College (HCC) in Shoreditch, East London, implemented a substantial lighting upgrade that resulted in more than 4,900 lamps being converted to LED. The new systems were supplied and installed by Energys Group, which also provided boiler optimisation controls and specialist insulation as part of a far-reaching energy efficiency initiative.

With expected annual savings of £70,000 and a return on investment (RoI) of only 2.8 years on the lighting side of the project alone, its impact has been significant. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that HCC recently decided to move ahead with a second lighting upgrade – this time focusing on internal spaces not covered by the earlier project, as well as external areas of the campus.

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“The Energys LED lighting has brought a definite, cost-efficient improvement to the quality and comfort factor of lighting inside the college, and it made sense to optimise the remaining areas in a similar fashion,” says HCC Communications Director Ruth Lomax. “This time work focused on the dance and performing arts studios, a number of classrooms and offices, corridors, and outdoor areas of the campus.”

Energys’ Business Development Manager, Raj Gunasekaran, adds: “As with the previous project, it was evident that the latest generation LED lighting could deliver significant cost reductions for the college. We specified a number of our most popular current products during the Phase Two upgrade, which took place over the course of four weeks in autumn 2016.”

Salix success again

As in Phase One, Energys was able to bring its comprehensive knowledge of the Salix funding scheme to the table. Once again, the college secured financial assistance under the Salix College Energy Fund with the assistance of the Energys team.

The project called on a variety of products from Energys Group’s industry-leading New Vision range. In the internal areas, specified items included LED tubes, panels, downlighters, wall lights, dimmable solutions and spot lights. Outside, the new installation comprises a blend of LED uplighters, bollard lights, eyelid wall lights, photocell units, floodlights and path lights.

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The project was completed to a stringent and quick-turnaround timetable, but its benefits are likely to be long-lived indeed. Energys estimates that the new internal lighting will save the college £16K a year, with a return on investment (RoI) of 2.6 years. Meanwhile, forecasts indicate that the new external lighting will save £9K a year, giving the college an RoI of 4.5 years.

“These are compelling figures,” says Gunasekaran, “and underline the benefits that LED lighting has both in terms of immediate and longer-term energy savings. With increasingly stringent carbon targets in mind, more and more schools and colleges are now converting to all-LED infrastructures, and we expect that trend to intensify in 2017 as awareness continues to grow.”

The college is full of praise for the Energys team’s ability to supply and install such a substantial amount of new lighting technology in what was a very limited timeframe. “The project went smoothly and there was no impact on college activities,” said Ruth. “But above all we would highlight the quality of the new lighting – it is much more consistent and comfortable for staff and students.

“We had high expectations of Energys and its LED lighting systems after Phase One, and we am delighted to confirm that they have been fully satisfied.”

How to save energy in schools: a guide for school governors

Governors have the tricky job of balancing resources, and considering investment or expenditure decisions that deliver real returns. Energy efficiency upgrades are one such conundrum: at face value they can look interesting, and may well be strongly championed by managers and teaching staff.

But how do you decide the best route forwards? How do you know if this is the right decision, and whether to trust that the figures proposed will actually deliver?

This guide aims to arm school governors with the right knowledge and questions to ask when approving investments for energy efficiency upgrades.

What energy saving technologies I should consider?

 If a fast return on investment is the priority, then ‘quick win’ technologies are key – these involve minimal disruption to the school, and pay for themselves quickly with the energy saved over time.

‘Retrofit’ lighting upgrades consistently top surveys as the most popular energy efficiency investment. This is not surprising when you consider that replacing aging fluorescent tubes with LEDs can deliver energy savings as high as 65%.

Bedfordshire East Multi Academy Trust (BEMAT) is one such organisation that has made the switch. Head of Capital and Projects Ian Kite explains, “It has been estimated that we can cut energy costs by over 69 tons of CO2 across the three schools, so the case was highly compelling,” says Kite.

In other evidence, retrofit boiler optimisation technology (a simple installation which improves the efficiency of existing boilers without affecting the temperature of the building) has been proven to save schools 15% a year on energy bills, with overall payback estimated at 2.5 years. The faster the percentage wins and the speed of return the better.

Is there such a thing as a risk-free finance scheme?

Energys Group has found that leasing arrangements are particularly suitable for schools, and has been able to provide financing to numerous schools in a partnership with schools’ lending specialist Utility Rentals.

For peace of mind, the scheme complies with the Academies Financial Handbook. BEMAT’s lighting upgrade project was funded in this way, following a thorough due diligence exercise undertaken by the Trust.

“There is no requirement for any upfront capital investment; the cost of the lease is paid for through the monthly savings made,” says Kite. “All of the lighting is fully maintained for the duration of the lease. It makes sound commercial sense and it derisks the whole process.”

Can I trust the predicted energy savings/payback period I’m shown?

“It is wise for governors to opt for proven technologies that have already been seen to cut energy use in similar applications and schools,” says Kevin Cox, Managing Director of Energys Group.

“Dealing with well-established suppliers that provide lengthy warranties can ensure peace of mind. High-profile ‘eco-bling’, such as solar PV panels, may be an exciting prospect, but many schools already waste more energy than they would hope to generate through solar power.

“Targeting areas of energy waste, such as outdated lighting, inefficient boilers and uninsulated plant room equipment typically delivers far more substantial carbon savings.”

Choosing the right supplier

 It pays to ensure that your supplier offers a robust warranty. Not only does it show that the supplier is confident their product won’t fail, it also takes the risk out of the decision.

Energys, for example, offers a 5 year warranty on our lighting products. However there are many companies that don’t offer this length of time, so it’s worth shopping around for those who do.

It is also worth checking the financial stability and trading history of your prospective supplier; a long warranty is not especially helpful if the supplier is unlikely to be around to honour it. For further reassurance, you could also specify suppliers that include an ongoing maintenance service as part of their package.

Considering the business case for school energy efficiency improvements? Read our education case studies or contact us for advice.