W2LP9 – Reducing Heat Demand of UK Schools: Maximising efficient use of heating controls.
17th October 2015 James Hedger

Reducing Heat Demand of UK Schools: Maximising efficient use of heating controls.

James Hedger, Loughborough

Space heating in school buildings accounts for 60% of their energy consumption. The UK school stock contributes up to 14% of the total non-domestic CO2 emissions despite constituting 1.4% of the non-domestic building stock. This demonstrates that the energy efficiency in space heating is an area that has significance in the UK school stock. The research aims to assess the effectiveness of both behavioural influences in different technical situations. The impact of energy feedback interventions will be used to assess the impact of influencing user behaviour. The technical investigation will be based on modelling various heat load points followed by applying this to a school classroom. The model will predict how much heat energy can be reduced by altering the various different implications of behaviour such as, opening and closing of windows and doors; timing of heating system; radiator settings; night ventilation and other similar strategies. The outcome of this research will be aimed at informing relevant stakeholders on interventions that can help reduce heat demand in school buildings.


Despite the UK accounting for 1% of the global population, it is accountable for 2.3% of global carbon emissions (Liao et al. 2005). With global efforts being developed to reduce carbon emissions, the UK government has agreed to aim for a reduction of carbon emissions by 80% of the 1990 levels by 2050 (DECC 2010). Of the total UK carbon emissions, school buildings produce 10% of emissions in the public and private sector (DECCb 2011). Research has revealed that 60% of energy in a typical UK school is used for space heating (CarbonTrust 2010). From these statistics, it is evident that improvements to the energy efficiency of space heating in schools will be a valuable contributor to the overall reduction target. A study by the Carbon Trust (2010) has found that children require less heat to keep warm thus offering a potential energy saving guideline. If the current temperature settings in schools are lowered by one degree Celsius from the current recommendation of19oc , a predicted to saving of around 8% of energy use can be achieved (CarbonTrust 2010). However, effective energy savings are not just about reducing room temperatures.In 2004, a scheme was instigated by the UK government known as “Building Schools for the Future” (BSF) which was aimed at spending £55bn on rebuilding every secondary school in England (BBC 2010). This was implemented with the aim of providing improved learning environments for the students with better technology, air quality and inspiration, however the scheme was cancelled in July 2010 due to government budget cuts (DfE 2011). With the original aim of refurbishing or rebuilding 3,500 schools by 2030 only 178 were completed before the scheme was terminated (BBC 2010). The cancellation of the BSF means the majority of schools continue to operate with the original building fabric. This limited opportunities for significant refurbishments to school buildings means non-fabric and non-technical aspects of energy demand become the most appropriate areas to tackle.

Having completed an MRes research project on the indoor carbon dioxide displacement in school buildings, an indirect impact on behaviour from senior staff was found to result from conducting the research. As awareness amongst staff was raised about the impacts of metabolically produced CO2 on students in combination with the monitored concentrations, the school took action by actively implementing improvements in ventilation systems throughout the school. Unknown at the beginning of the research, students had previously raised concern about the discomfort experienced in certain rooms and until the evidence of the indoor air quality was presented, no action had been taken. The motivation behind this action by the school, i.e. a particular type of organisation, was a combination of caring for the health impacts on the students, improving academic performance and maintaining good public image. Such anecdotal evidence is an example of the diversity of variables impacting on energy demand illustrating the types of areas that should be investigated to reach a greater understanding of behavioural aspects of energy demand in school buildings.

Aims and Objectives:

This research will aim to:

Formulate an understanding of the use of heating controls and building elements that directly impact heating demand and identify the main characteristics of this usage behaviour.
Understand the influence the physical environment, e.g. temperature, CO2 levels, Humidity, noise and lighting, has on behaviour.
Understand the role of behavioural antecedents such as knowledge related to heating, motivation, personal goals or ambitions in behavioural actions.
Understand extent of heating controls being a reactionary response to the working environment or habitual actions.
Identify effective interventions to improve heat control, minimise heat loss and reduce overall demand.
Test set of interventions of other schools after compiling a set of easy to follow recommendations.

The objectives to achieve this will be to:

Interview and/or observe staff and people responsible for heating control to understand behaviour prior to setting research.
Measure energy consumption of school in a trial period prior to full monitoring of research in order to minimise impact of research on heating controls and provide a baseline reading of energy use. This will be done to observe whether a reduction in energy use can be achieved.
Install monitoring equipment to observe the physical environment and correlate with behaviour. Surveys to measure comfort of occupants and provide a deeper understanding of potential drivers of heating control behaviour can be done and correlated with physical environment measurements.
Introduce knowledge and information to staff and students to observe how changes in awareness and potentially attitude affect behaviour of heating control.
Devise alterations to systems that may reduce energy demand such as optimising heating times of radiators in synchrony with the timetables for each room and possibly investigating type of clothing of students in different climatic seasons.
Test basic assumptions found to improve energy reduction through heating controls on other schools.


Access to school buildings is a key criterion for successfully pursuing this study. Discussions with the headmaster of a school have indicated a willingness to cooperate with this research. This includes support for interaction with staff and students should the intervention techniques developed involve experimental methods that may influence behaviour. The school proposed for the research has two campuses which comprise of approximately 35 rooms each and were constructed in 1769. One campus was internally refurbished in 2008 and the other continues to support the original building fabric. The two buildings will provide a basis for comparison of heating control for two different types of buildings, one which is known to be more air tight and one which is known to be leaky. It is proposed to monitor this one school in detail over the autumn, spring and summer terms to observe the impacts of different climatic conditions on heating use.

Multiple research methods will be used to investigate behavioural motivation in addition to a range of physical monitoring techniques. In addition to this, the extent of monitoring equipment that can be used will be researched and developed. This will aim to be developed sufficiently in order to achieve the aims and objectives.

Developing innovative ways to minimise energy use from heating will be investigated and developed such as optimising the heating settings in accordance with the timetables in each room. Heating in schools are typically set to run during the hours of occupancy regardless of occupancy in individual rooms which vary on a daily basis for each room during a week.

A model of behavioural impacts on heating demand will be built and used to produce a set of guidelines for interventions on behaviour and heating controls. The guidelines for interventions will be sampled on other schools to assess whether it can be applied as a generic set of suggestions and solutions for energy reduction. Access to other schools can be organised from the current school headmaster.


This research will aim to be applicable to various types of school buildings and potentially other buildings which share occupied spaces with multiple occupants such as offices or hospitals. The purpose of this will be to assess whether buildings that have similar heating control structures to schools can be improved in similar ways to school buildings.

The work will establish the extent of savings in energy through influencing use that can be achieved.

Monitoring the physical environment and its impact on behavioural trends will highlight the need for maintaining adequate indoor air environments whilst minimising energy consumption. This will be important as the indoor environments could cause inefficient energy use behaviour from the occupants. Maintaining human health and comfort cannot be ignored when making an energy demand reduction model which will be an integral part of this study.

Supervisors: Victoria Haines and Kirk Shanks


BBC, 2010. No Title. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-10682980 [Accessed September 20, 2011].

CarbonTrust, 2010. Learning to improve energy efficiency

DECC, 2010. Department of Energy & Climate Change. Available at: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/emissions/carbon_budgets/carbon_budgets.aspx [Accessed June 8, 2011].

DECCb, 2011. CRC ENERGY EFFICIENCY SCHEME. Available at: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/emissions/crc_efficiency/crc_efficiency.aspx [Accessed August 20, 2011].

DfE, 2011. Department for Education. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-10682980 [Accessed September 18, 2011].

Liao, Z., Swainson, M. & Dexter, a, 2005. On the control of heating systems in the UK. Building and Environment, 40(3), pp.343-351. Available at: http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0360132304001842 [Accessed August 17, 2011].

Project Team

James Hedger
Victoria Haines
Dennis Loveday


Conference paper

Understanding CO2 dispersion and distribution in school classrooms

Research into Carbon dioxide (CO2) dispersion and distribution through school classrooms was completed with the purpose of understanding how it may be applied to ventilation design. Four classrooms within two buildings of differing characteristics located in Central London were monitored. The analysis demonstrated that CO2 dispersed rapidly with an even distribution, both in the air-tight building with low air-flow and in the leaky building with high air-flow. It is postulated that these observations are the result of respiration, movement and heat emission from the occupants as well as the higher density of CO2 than air.