Decoding sustainability

by Robert Gould FRICS, Partner, Barker

Sustainability has become a buzzword in today’s world, and rightfully so. As schools and colleges strive to reduce their environmental impact, terms like climate actions plans (CAPs), carbon management plans (CMPs), Net Zero strategies, energy audits, and heat decarbonisation plans (HDPs) have become integral parts of the conversation. In this article, we’ll unravel the intricacies of each, shedding light on their unique roles in the pursuit of a greener future.

Energy audits
For many organisations energy audits are the first step on the decarbonisation journey. An energy audit delves into the intricacies of an organisation’s energy consumption. By conducting a thorough assessment of building fabric, services, and user behaviours, organisations can identify areas of inefficiency and implement targeted improvements. These audits not only contribute to sustainability goals but also lead to cost savings by optimising energy use. Energy audits often contain quick wins and short-term solutions which can have an immediate effect. They are therefore a crucial starting point for any organisation looking to enhance its environmental performance.

Carbon management plans (CMPs)
At its core, a CMP is a strategic approach to identify, measure, and manage an organisation’s carbon emissions. It goes beyond mere measurement, offering a comprehensive roadmap to reduce emissions over the medium term – typically three to five years. A CMP involves setting emission reduction targets, implementing energy-efficient practices, and continually monitoring and adjusting strategies. The aim is not just to offset carbon emissions but to proactively minimise them, promoting long-term sustainability. CMPs are reviewed and updated periodically to take account of new technology, changes to the organisation, and changes that have already been implemented.

Heat decarbonisation plans (HDPs)
As we move towards a greener future, addressing the carbon footprint of heating systems becomes paramount. HDPs outline strategies to transition from conventional, carbon-intensive heating to low-carbon or renewable alternatives. This involves adopting technologies like heat pumps, improving insulation, and integrating renewable energy sources into heating systems. For economic and financial reasons (replacement of plant when it becomes obsolete) heat decarbonisation is often seen as a longer-term strategy – typically five to ten years. HDPs are instrumental in achieving overall decarbonisation, aligning with broader sustainability objectives and limiting or omitting reliance on fossil fuels. Public sector bodies can secure grant funding to help create their HDPs through the Low Carbon Skills Fund administered by Salix.

Net Zero strategies
Net Zero goes a step further, representing a holistic commitment to balancing the amount of greenhouse gases produced with an equivalent amount removed from the atmosphere. While CMPs focus on reduction, Net Zero strategies take a more ambitious stance, envisioning a state where the organisation’s carbon footprint is entirely neutral. This often involves a combination of emission reductions, and investments in renewable energy sources and can also incorporate an element of carbon offsetting working towards a Net Zero target that could be ten years or more in the future.

Climate action plans (CAPs)
Finally, as part of the DfE’s Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy there is a target for all education settings to have both a sustainability lead and a CAP) in place by 2025. A CAP goes beyond energy and decarbonisation to look at the impact education setting can have across four key areas:
  1. Decarbonisation.
  2. Adaptation and resilience.
  3. Biodiversity.
  4. Climate education, training and jobs.
How do they fit together?
These terms may seem like jargon, but they represent powerful tools in the sustainability arsenal. For schools and colleges, a CAP is the foundation, Net Zero strategies set the ambitious target, energy audits optimise current practices and can often identify ‘invest-to-save’ projects that save money as well as reduce carbon emissions. HDPs ensure a focused approach to reducing carbon emissions across heating systems and can facilitate further access to central government grant funding.

Robert Gould FRICS is a Partner at Barker

Barker is an ASCL Premier Partner and event sponsor of our inaugural Conference for a Sustainable Future on 5 June.  Robert will be leading a workshop at this event on how to decarbonise your school and create your climate action plan. 

Posted: 07/05/2024 15:22:52