Is education in a league of its own?

Back in July 2010 the Building Schools for the Future scheme (BSF) was one of the earliest casualties of the new coalition government budget cuts.  Its scrapping, which was announced by Michael Gove, was put down to the fact that the scheme was deemed as being bureaucratic and wasteful. 

This was a huge hammer blow to a large number of schools that were left with old, inefficient and in some cases seriously dilapidated school estates some of whose problems had been left to compound themselves due to the expectation that a new build was just around the corner.   In fact six local authorities who had BSF projects cancelled at a very advanced stage elected to take their case to court, the outcome of which forced the Government to rethink their decision. 

From this forced review the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) was subsequently introduced one year later.  The £2.4bn programme will see some schools being rebuilt and a further £1.4bn being made available this year to deal with maintenance – not as generous as it may first appear given the estimated £8.5bn school repair bill that it is estimated is actually what is needed.

We now know that 261 schools in England will receive money from this new fund which represents just 44% of the number of schools who actually applied, although it has been stated that others may get some repairs supported through other maintenance funds.

Focus on energy

The fund will be used to create ‘fit-for-purpose’ educational facilities which it is claimed will deliver greater value for money than the BSF scheme. One interesting aspect of these contracts is that they specifically state that the ‘unitary charge’ which is the fee paid by the local authority to the contractor over the lifetime of the 25-year contract will include energy and utility costs.  This has specifically been included to ensure that whole life costs are considered and that the contractor is required to minimise aspects such as energy efficiency. 

This introduces the concept of ‘invest to save’ which recognises that additional spending on early design enhancements will yield long term savings and is a significant step forward which opens the door for long term planning.

With decisions like this, there will now be a much stronger focus on the energy consumption of products during their lifecycle and this will mean products like pumps will have significantly more emphasis placed upon them.

This focus is perhaps not too surprising given that one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is to ensure sustainable development. Pumps are an important part of this solution as they actually offer a five times greater energy saving opportunity in comparison to more recognisable energy saving targets such as lighting.

History lessons

Traditionally, we know that most pumps in existing applications are over-sized as we have been involved with many school/educational new builds and refurbishment projects.  This makes us well versed in advising how best to achieve the best return of investment, both to the system operation as well as optimising energy usage, by looking at specific aspects. 

Our experience has found that many of the older systems found in schools have tended to use belt drive pumps. Frequently these pumps have tended to be oversized and use old hydraulics that suffered from significant energy losses across the belts. However by switching these old style pumps to energy efficient options significant savings can be achieved.

Circulator know-how

Today there are solutions available to save significant energy with new product introductions like the Grundfos MAGNA3 first introduced in 2012.  This range of medium and large circulator pumps comes complete with electronically controlled motors based on permanent magnet (PM) and compact stator technology.  Designed for circulating liquids in a wide range of applications including heating systems, domestic water systems, air conditioning and cooling systems – as well as in renewable applications such as ground-source heat pump systems and solar heating systems, they are ideal for school projects.

With some unique energy optimising benefits over older designs, for example even choosing the best setting is now simple – just install the pump and leave it on the factory AUTOADAPT setting.  The pump will then analyse the heating system demands and find the optimum setting and continuously adjust its operation to deal with changing system demands.

Other important features are FLOWLIMIT which offers a facility to limit maximum flow without the need for a balancing valve on the main flow and return pipe, whilst FLOWADAPT combines the benefits of both the FLOWLIMIT and AUTOADAPT functions together.

The MAGNA3 also features a built-in heat energy meter.  By fitting a separate temperature sensor in the return pipe the energy consumption in the system can be monitored and logged in the MAGNA3.  This allows end users to monitor their energy consumption in order to avoid excessive energy bills caused by poor system balance and potential problems with system controls.  

Grundfos has also introduced a MAGNA1 circulator range that also delivers the required high energy efficiency, but with a reduced set of features which could offer the perfect solution in a refurbishment situation.

With an Energy Efficiency Index (EEI) that already complies with the EuP 2015 requirements, all Grundfos MAGNA models can achieve savings of up to 75% compared to a typical installed circulator making them an ideal choice in meeting the new PSBP demands.

Other considerations

Other areas that can reap important energy benefits in new build and retrofit circumstances can be found in  cold water boosting solutions where selecting variable speed drive sets such as the Grundfos Hydro MPC-E will mean improved accuracy, better control of pressure and of course energy savings.

Hot water service pump requirements can be fulfilled by Grundfos MAGNA FN pumps that give accurate flow and energy savings rather than using fixed speed variants with regulating valves.

Making the right decision will vary from school to school.  In the case of an educational refurbishment, an individual check such as a Grundfos energy survey can ascertain the sort of savings that could be made.  This will be achieved by assessing all of the installed pump equipment and looking at the current and future demands of that system. 

Results are communicated via a comprehensive report that documents any suggested changes and the potential savings that they offer, along with giving an overview on the payback period.

Education for life

With the contracts for new and renovated schools currently being announced by the Department of Education, there will be increasing focus to ensure that these schemes deliver against all of their promises.  Today that not only means needing to be at the top of the education league tables, but being at the top of energy saving tables. 

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