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Writing on the wall for green schools ?
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A new green school has won Best Built Project – Community Scale Scheme in the Mayor’s London Planning Awards. St Paul’s Way Trust School in Bow, Tower Hamlets, East London, was rebuilt as part of Tower Hamlets’ Building Schools of the Future Programme.
Writing on the wall for green schools ?

St Paul’s Way Trust School is a landmark new secondary school which knits together a diverse local community to unprecedented degree and sits within the wider St Paul’s Way regeneration scheme. The building and school grounds have been designed to be uplifting and inspiring for those that use it, with public functions carefully combined to offer a grand scale civic facility to the neighbourhood.

The school provides secure access between the public and private realm, allowing the community easy access to a library, sports complex and theatre from the street. Clever internal planning allows both pupils and the community to benefit from these functions in tandem and the school is free of the all too common unsightly fences and gates that form barriers between schools and their surroundings.

Designed to be both engaging and practical for pupils and teachers, the building comprises three floors offering a range of learning environments. These range from corridor-free spaces allowing passive supervision to classroom spaces that can be expanded easily into larger or smaller open plan spaces to encourage a variety of teaching styles to flourish.

Four centres of excellence known as “houses” are the basis of the school. Each house creates a unique, dynamic social and educational experience with a “feature classroom”, where the achievements of the house are showcased. Each house is centred around a three-storey atrium linking it to the library, dining hall and specialist teaching facilities.

The building has reached an exceptional level of sustainability, achieving a BREEAM excellent rating with expected annual carbon emissions of just 22kgCO2 m².

Meanwhile "The Guardian' reports that businesses have made a last-ditch attempt to prevent the Education Secretary scrapping the rule which currently requires new schools to meet the BRE Environmental Assesment Method (BREEAM) green building standard, after a spending review report argued the scheme was too bureaucratic.

The Aldersgate Group and UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) this week penned a joint letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove, warning they were "deeply concerned" by a document that said schools should no longer be required to adhere to BREEAM standards.

The recommendation formed part of a review into capital spending by the Department for Education (DfE) by Sebastian James, which minister are expected to decide the results of shortly.

Under the previous government's Building Schools for the Future programme, new schools had to meet or exceed the BREEAM 'very good' standard, covering areas such as energy management and use, health and well-being, pollution, transport, land use, materials, and water.

But James' review said DfE should drop this rule because BREEAM had become too bureaucratic for schools and local authorities.

Instead of helping schools to become more energy efficient, James warned the standard may actually be hindering local authorities from choosing the right tools to build sustainable schools.

"BREEAM has been criticised for being very prescriptive, providing incredibly detailed guidance on matters such as cycling facilities (eight pages long) or of the ecology allowed on site (25 pages long)," said James.

But on Monday, Paul King, chief executive of the UKGBC, and Peter Young, chairman of the Aldersgate Group, wrote to Gove, making a last-ditch attempt to save the BREEAM requirement before a decision is announced.

"It's a rather rearguard action to desperately try and prevent Michael Gove doing something which would be anti-sustainability, anti-good design and anti-industry," a UKGBC spokesman said, "It's last-minute intervention on something that hasn't had any consultation."

The groups argued that the cost of a school achieving an "excellent" BREEAM standard would be far outweighed by the resulting savings on energy bills. They also suggested that efforts should be made to adapt BREEAM to suit schools, rather than just drop it altogether.

"Clearly, there are improvements that could be made, but we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater," they said.

King and Young also argued that scrapping the rule could increase confusion rather than reduce it because BREEAM is widely recognised in the construction industry and scrapping it would require firms to develop new sustainable building methods.

"Reneging on the commitment would also send a terrible message to UK industry, which frequently builds to BREEAM Excellent standards in commercial developments so they can be occupied by a public sector anchor-tenant," they added. The letter, which was also sent to the Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet, warned that scrapping BREEAM would undermine the government's pledge to become "the greenest ever".

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