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Reducing Carbon: Challenges & Strategies

20 Apr 2023

Decarbonising schools – a research project with the Department for Education - Raadiyah Rifath-Dodsworth, Senior Architect, Atkins, Ian Keeling, Principal Engineer, Cundall & Helen Groves, Architect Director; Education Sector Lead, Atkins

Atkins, Cundall, Smith & Wallwork and Mott MacDonald have been working with the Department for Education for the past year on a research project to develop a standardised approach to the decarbonisation of the English school estate.  

This presentation will detail the journey of the project, including the following themes:

  • Creating a Platform solution for the Energy Pods
  • Designing for modularity and efficiency and Standardising the mechanical solutions
  • Rationalising the approach to the existing fabric and services in schools
  • Maximising the opportunity for educational engagement with the pod modules and their landscape context
  • The decarbonisation ambitions and solutions for the fabric of the Pods
  • Lessons learned from the case studies
  • Design solutions for the prototype, which is currently being built
  • The future ambitions for the project

The Lo-Carb Diet: where we are and where we need to get to - Ben Marston, Director, Jestico + Whiles & Stephen Gallacher, Associate Principal, Introba

Jestico + Whiles in-house research unit, Addition Labs, undertakes R&D in support of the practice’s fee-earning work. The unit’s recent work in this space has included developing zero carbon in operation school models with contractors on the DfE framework, making frank embodied carbon assessments of current typical schools being built by the DfE framework and their current project developing a prototype zero-carbon school building approach in collaboration with Introba.

There are a number of different approaches to achieving net zero carbon in operation. Achieving net zero, or minimal carbon, holistically, including the embodied component during construction, operation and in eventual decommissioning is the real challenge. Some approaches to net zero carbon in operation are not necessarily the best when considering carbon over the full life-time of the project.

Understanding the scale of the challenge begins with understanding where we are. Many of the schools being built by contractors currently are following a formulaic approach which has been driven for more than a decade by a lowest possible cost approach, not a carbon agenda. An assessment of where the embodied carbon is in a typical school needs to be the starting point of determining how school construction needs to evolve to meet ambitions of reducing its overall carbon footprint.

In collaboration with environmental engineering specialists Introba, Jestico + Whiles and Introba present their assessment of the current status quo of embodied carbon in school construction, and outline ideas through their developing prototype of how school construction can be made significantly lower carbon.


Helen Groves, Architect Director - Education Sector Lead - AtkinsRéalis
Raadiyah Rifath-Dodsworth, Senior Architect - Atkins
Ian Keeling, Principal Mechanical Engineer - Cundall
Ben Marston, Director - Jestico + Whiles
Stephen Gallacher, Associate Principal - Introba



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