Newcastle Net Zero Schools

To demonstrate Newcastle City Council's commitment to net zero by 2030, they are investing almost £10m to decarbonise their school estate.

1,215 t
Est. annual reduction in carbon
emissions (tonnes CO2 eq)

Est. number of people
who benefit directly

Newcastle City Council's story

The Newcastle Net Zero Schools programme is fundamentally about decarbonising the school estate across the city. We have approximately 100 schools across the city of varying sizes and types, ranging from new build secondary academies to Victorian-era primary schools. Each school needed a bespoke low-carbon assessment and it was very clear from the outset of this project that a 'one size fits all' approach was completely unworkable.

We also wanted the programme to act as an educational resource so that young people in the city could have direct access to information on the use of energy in their school and start to understand the impacts of building emissions on their climate. We are therefore going to install a live stream feed from the low carbon technologies into the schools via a monitor in the main reception.

Useful learnings from Newcastle City Council

There are a number of key elements to delivering a Net Zero school which are summarised in stages below.

Collect as much information as possible about the school from the age of the heating plant, equipment specification, layout of the school and configuration of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) system, Building Management System (BMS) data, half hourly meter readings, as-built drawings, available space in the plant room and around the school, etc. Every bit of information will come into use at some point in the project design and delivery.

The most complex part of any school (or indeed any building) decarbonisation is the replacement of the conventional gas-based heating system with a Low or Zero Carbon heating alternative. Undertaking detailed hydraulic optimisation studies of the building and working with expert consultants and designers to develop a school wide low carbon heat strategy that delivers carbon savings at reasonable capital and operating cost is very important.

Starting detailed assessments of all other energy efficiency or low carbon measures for the school is important to accurately size, specify and cost these elements of the works. This includes structural surveys of the school roofs for solar PV installations, comprehensive energy audits to identify areas for improvement to existing fabric and infiltration rates, detailed assessments of lighting replacement programmes including LUX levels and a schedule of replacements, etc. This stage should ensure a comprehensive building-level assessment and pick up the impacts between different low carbon measures.

Working with an experienced Quantity Surveyor and using very recent cost benchmarks, using the previously completed technical studies, compile a detailed cost build-up. Then apply sensible sums for preliminaries, ancillary works, contingencies, contractor overhead and profit, inflation, etc.

Throughout these stages and going forwards into project delivery, ensure that the school and other key stakeholders are kept up to speed on developments. A cash flow model showing how the system is expected to perform is important to be able to answer the school's questions about the cost impact of the new systems on their building's operations. Newcastle City Council are happy to share the cash flow model that we have been using for this purpose.

Newcastle City Council's metrics

kWh of energy used within the buildings.
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Solar PV panels.
Solar PV panels.
Solar PV panels.