Selecting premises based on environmental criteria

It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes schools move premises, open a new branch, or open new student accommodation.

If you are in that position, take a moment to think about the environmental footprint of the new building you are choosing to ensure you're doing as much as possible to protect our planet. You can weigh these up alongside the other criteria that you have for building choice, like location, size, cost, etc.

A note about cost

Add into your decisions the fact that buildings with a better environmental footprint should be cheaper to run. Better insulation, sealed windows and doors, efficient cooling and heating, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, water-saving toilets – all of these components of a green building dramatically cut the cost of monthly gas, electricity and water bills.

What to look for

When looking for an environmentally friendly building, these are the significant aspects:

Preferably made from environmentally sustainable resources. A well-insulated building is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Doors and windows that seal well and eliminate draughts will help this.

Consider the construction materials. If you can influence this (with a new build for example), prioritise durable materials that won’t need replacing in a couple of years, local materials if possible, recycled fixtures and fittings if they are suitable, and paints and chemicals which are less toxic to the environment. If you are choosing new floors and cupboards, sustainability experts nearly universally agree bamboo is one of the best eco-friendly building materials on the planet.

Low energy lighting
Electricity to light offices and classrooms is not only a significant cost for most schools, but it carries a high carbon footprint. Modern low energy lightbulbs significantly reduce electricity use, so always look for buildings which have these designed in.

Rainwater collection
Buildings with the highest environmental standards collect and filter rainwater for use in toilets and for watering gardens.

If you are lucky to have a garden, choose indigenous plants that need minimal additional watering, and also attract local insects and birds.

These are just some of the things to look for. Choosing a new school building is a significant and complex choice, and sometimes there are few alternatives which meet even your minimum criteria, but it would be good to at least consider these factors in your decision.

Read more about the IH Environmental Sustainability Scheme >>