pound;2.3bn to give colleges a zero carbon rating

4th April 2008 at 01:00

Wind turbines and solar energy will help all new FE buildings become eco-friendly by 2016

Colleges are being told to spearhead a revolution in eco-friendly construction by giving their buildings a zero carbon footprint by 2016.

Meeting this target, with the help of pound;2.3 billion of Government funding over the next three years, would put colleges two years ahead of the rest of the public sector in providing buildings which aim not to contribute to global warming.

The total remaining cost of redeveloping the whole FE estate is estimated at pound;4-5 billion, meaning colleges will be expected to find up to pound;2.7 billion themselves.

The construction strategy, Building Colleges for the Future, also requires builders responsible for the work to offer training and apprenticeships as part of their contracts.

John Denham, the Secretary of State for Skills, said: "In 1997 there was no dedicated capital budget for FE colleges. The record pound;2.3 billion we are now investing sets out our most ambitious plans yet for sustainable college buildings.

"We will require all new projects to meet the highest building standards for sustainable design and have a taskforce in place to advise on how we will ensure that all new buildings are zero carbon by 2016. This is two years ahead of the Government's target for public-sector building announced in the budget."

The strategy assumes that more students can be taught in less space and foresees college land will be reduced by 1 million square metres to 6.6 million square metres by 2016.

In 1993, the FE estate was 9 million square metres. The reduction, the Learning and Skills Council says, reflects "more modern" teaching practices, including solo study using computers. Students now have fewer guided learning hours, the council says. Also, colleges often part-fund new buildings by selling land, since they usually have to fund more than half the cost of new buildings themselves.

Guidelines for improving the carbon footprint of colleges recommend they make the most of natural light and ventilation, use wind or solar generated power for lighting and heating, and capture rainwater. Sheffield College, for example, is aiming to reduce energy consumption by a quarter by adding wind turbines and solar panels to its vocational training site at Castle College in Nottingham, due to be completed in 2010.

Linda Newman, president of the University and College Union, said colleges should have a green curriculum as well as green buildings and should become the local centres for informing people about climate change and how to respond.

"It is important that centres of education are centres of best practice in tackling climate change," she said. "I would also like to see colleges developing green transport-to-work plans and other initiatives with college staff unions, students and the local community."

Leading article, page 4


Standards for colleges will be set in the summer but are expected to resemble the housing zero carbon standard. Over a year, a building should aim to produce no net carbon dioxide emissions for all its energy requirements. As well as making buildings more energy efficient, with insulation, natural ventilation and light, colleges will be expected to generate enough renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, to offset any production of greenhouse gases.

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