The education sector is a cornerstone of our society.
While its primary focus remains academic excellence, its footprint on the environment, cannot be ignored.
The vast array of facilities and resources deployed across the nation's schools, colleges, and universities make the sector both a significant consumer of energy and, consequently, a considerable contributor to carbon emissions.
Understanding the scale of the challenge is the first step towards mitigating it.
This shift towards sustainable technologies sets a gold standard for the future of education.
The carbon footprint of the estate
The education estate, inclusive of all the buildings and facilities dedicated to academic pursuits, plays a larger role in carbon emissions than many realise.
These establishments account for a striking 36% of the carbon emissions from public sector buildings (according to the Department of Education).
Since the 1990s, the trajectory of these emissions has been on the rise, now encapsulating around 0.5% of the UK's total carbon emissions.
The UK higher education sector, conscious of this escalating problem, has proactively set targets. Aiming for a commendable reduction of 34% in carbon emissions by 2020 and an even more ambitious 80% by 2050, the sector is making sustainability a priority.
In an era that necessitates sustainable solutions, Mitsubishi Electric positions itself at the forefront of change, pioneering the shift towards greener educational environments.
The company’s approach is comprehensive, addressing not just the immediate challenges, but laying a foundation for long-term sustainability.
Energy efficiency: Advanced HVAC systems
The beating heart of Mitsubishi Electric's green initiatives for the education sector lies in its innovative HVAC systems. Temperature regulation, often a major consumer of energy in large facilities, can be optimised to unprecedented levels of efficiency with these systems.
Our advanced systems, incorporating intelligent controls and sensors, achieve multiple goals.
Firstly, they offer controllable comfort, ensuring that every classroom, lecture hall, and study space maintains a conducive atmosphere for learning.
Simultaneously, their high efficiency ensures that energy consumption, and consequently carbon emissions, are minimised.
And, with modern, web-based controls, they provide an important tool for energy management, facilities managers and maintenance teams.
Heat pump technology: Boosting energy efficiency
Heat pumps stand out as a stellar solution when it comes to enhancing energy efficiency in educational environments.
These systems are efficient, using minimal energy, making them a notably more economical choice for educational institutions than traditional, carbon-intensive gas or oil solutions.
By leveraging electricity as their primary energy source, heat pumps not only reduce the carbon footprint of schools and universities but also align them with the government's ambitious net-zero targets.
Contemporary heat pump systems exhibit a design that's both flexible and modular, catering perfectly to the diverse architectural needs of the education sector.
Their adaptability ensures they fit seamlessly into a plethora of educational spaces: from intimate classroom settings and administrative offices in schools to expansive university accommodations and auditoriums.
Educational campuses are diverse, housing various structures including gyms, dining areas, and sports facilities, each with its unique energy requirements. The varied nature of these facilities demands versatile energy solutions that can cater to fluctuating occupancy rates and distinct usage patterns.
What's more, heat pumps are commendably low on maintenance demands. Their primary requirements being an electrical connection and water mean reduced burdens on the already overstretched engineering and maintenance teams in educational institutions.
This not only minimises the frequency of maintenance callouts but also empowers the technical teams to channel their energies towards enhancing the institution's overall sustainability initiatives, rather than constantly attending to equipment breakdowns.
This shift towards reliable and efficient technologies like heat pumps doesn't just translate to operational efficiency. It represents an institution's commitment to sustainable practices, setting a gold standard for the future of education.
Incorporating low-carbon air conditioning
Maintaining a conducive learning environment, especially during hotter months, is imperative for student well-being and productivity.
The heatwave of early summer, which led to the closure of over 70 schools in areas of heightened concern, underscores the growing importance of cooling solutions.
In many instances, incorporating air conditioning is now essential, not just for comfort but to ensure safety and optimal learning conditions.
The advancements in air conditioning technology offer a win-win for educational institutions. Contemporary systems deploy refrigerants like R32, known for their reduced Global Warming Potential (GWP).
This translates to a decrease in the carbon footprint of the institutions that utilise them. What's even more encouraging is that with R32, the amount of refrigerant used is up to 20% less than comparable older systems. Consequently, schools and universities can maintain a lower cumulative refrigerant usage across their facilities, aligning with overarching sustainability objectives.
But the innovation doesn’t stop there. These modern air conditioning units come equipped with heat recovery mechanisms.
Imagine the heat generated when cooling a gym or server room being repurposed. This recovered heat can be channelled to areas requiring warmth or even integrated into the hot water supply system.
Such a feature not only optimises energy utilisation for heating and cooling distinct zones but also drives down the entire system's carbon emissions.
Economic benefits of energy efficiency
The pivot towards energy efficiency is multifaceted. While the environmental implications are undeniable, the economic benefits are just as compelling:
Immediate and long-term cost savings:
Efficient systems utilise less energy. Over time, this results in drastically reduced utility bills, offering immediate and recurring savings to educational institutions.
Prudent investment for the future:
Modern energy-efficient infrastructure may come with a steeper initial price tag, but they are long-term investments. The reduced operational costs ensure that they pay for themselves over their lifetime.
Enhancement in property value:
Green credentials enhance property valuations. Educational institutions with state-of-the-art energy systems can expect to see their facilities appreciate in value, making them both environmental and financial assets.
Many governments, aware of the urgency of the climate crisis, offer incentives to institutions that adopt green measures. These could be in the form of grants, tax reductions, or rebates.
The Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) puts the public sector at the forefront of decarbonising buildings in the UK and in a leadership role to create exemplar projects in our communities that pave the way, helping the UK to meet its Carbon Budgets and Net Zero commitments.
Phase 3b PSDS is aimed at taking a ‘whole building’ approach to heat decarbonisation, combining heat decarbonisation with energy efficiency measures.
Most buildings in the public sector still rely on fossil fuel-based heating and, as these heating systems approach the end of their working lives, it is an ideal opportunity to transition those systems to low carbon heating.
Educating the educators: Training and support
True sustainability goes beyond infrastructure; it requires a change in mindset. Mitsubishi Electric, in its commitment to genuine change, wants to work with education establishments with the aim of "educating the educators".
Technology, particularly when it's cutting-edge, can pose challenges. Mitsubishi Electric’s promise is not just in delivering products but in ensuring their seamless operation through ongoing support.
Workshops and programs for awareness:
Mitsubishi Electric champions the cause of sustainability through workshops and programs. They aim to raise awareness about the twin imperatives of energy efficiency and the broader goal of environmental responsibility.
A holistic approach to sustainability:
Mitsubishi Electric UK’s vision is holistic, understanding that the challenge of sustainability is multifaceted:
Partnerships and collaborations:
The journey towards sustainability is collaborative. Mitsubishi Electric UK actively seeks to forge partnerships with universities, research institutions, and environmental organisations. These alliances amplify the effectiveness of green measures, through shared expertise and resources.
Integration of renewable energy:
Beyond just efficiency, there's a need to shift towards renewable energy sources. Mitsubishi Electric's strategic focus includes the development and integration of renewable energy technologies.
As the challenges posed by climate change loom large, the task of navigating our future becomes increasingly intertwined with the institutions that shape it. Educational institutions are at the forefront of this nexus between knowledge and action. Their responsibility isn't just limited to imparting academic wisdom but extends to moulding a generation that is environmentally conscious and proactive in addressing the multifaceted challenges our world faces.
Mitsubishi Electric UK's initiatives within the education sector exemplify a proactive approach to this challenge. It isn't just about equipping institutions with the latest technology, but also about embedding a culture of sustainability. The company's commitment goes beyond the mere transactional nature of business; it represents a vision for a sustainable future and a roadmap to achieve it.
The symbiotic relationship between Mitsubishi Electric UK and the education sector embodies a broader message: collaboration and mutual growth are vital in our path to sustainability. As educational institutions become flagbearers of energy efficiency and ecological responsibility, they also become living examples for students, faculty, and the broader community. This has a ripple effect, instilling values of sustainability in everyone they touch, ultimately leading to a community, and in turn, a nation that values and prioritises the environment.
Furthermore, the financial prudence that comes with sustainability showcases the marriage of economic and ecological interests. No longer can the two be viewed in silos; they are deeply interconnected, with one bolstering the other.
In essence, our endeavours in the education sector aren't just about carbon footprints or advanced HVAC systems. They're about creating a paradigm shift, where knowledge and action harmoniously coalesce, laying the foundation for a brighter, greener, and more sustainable future.
Sharon Oliver Marketing Manager at Mitsubishi Electric