GenZero

The next generation of net-zero UK school designs, with long-term, whole-life value in mind.

Last updated: 26th August 2020

Date uploaded:

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Innovation Lead: Mike Pitts
Project number: TBC
UKRI funding: £4,000,000

Website:
constructioninnovationhub.org.uk/


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Summary

Department of Education (DfE) builds up to 200 new schools each year to satisfy demand for student places and maintain stock. In a pioneering move, DfE has partnered with construction innovators to collectively invest £4m in GenZero - a project to create a new, improved design standards for school buildings. The collaboration have developed a advanced concepts that will create a new design guide for all DfE procured schools and set the standard for new school buildings in England with the aim of making them net-zero. The prototypes will enable more efficient manufacturing processes to be used to enable faster construction, increased productivity and lower carbon emissions.

Innovation type: Digital, Procurement
Organisation type: Government client

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Project pioneers

Department for Education (DfE) has an ambition to transform school buildings, and work with the construction industry to deliver new schools that are net-zero emissions and that further improve the physical and mental wellbeing of pupils and staff.

The problem

The DfE aims to build up to 200 new schools a year to provide enough places for pupils and renew existing buildings. Government-procured schools are largely designed to be built
to an agreed capital budget which can be at the expense of running costs or performance. Schools that are higher-performing environmentally support better pupil
performance but the extra capital cost is often a barrier. Shifting these rules to take account of whole-life performance would mean a shift in procurement practices as well as
design rules.

Vision

New schools procured with a net-zero design guide with modern methods of construction principles built into it will lead to school buildings being built with zero-emissions. They will ultimately be better places to work and learn, and optimised for physical and mental health. With more efficient manufacturing processes, buildings can be constructed faster and with whole-life value in mind.

Key Insight

Department for Education (DfE) wants to push its design standards toward Net Zero. The department has pioneered the move towards using modern methods of construction and is working in partnership in this project to ensure the resulting net-zero designs will enable greater use of a platform approach.

First step

GenZero is a £4m R&D project between Department for Education (DfE), Innovate UK, Construction Innovation Hub (CIH) and Active Building Centre (ABC) to create the design rules for Net Zero schools, in a way that is still achievable for manufacturers to deliver at an optimised cost. The project set out to explore and define new design and build standards that will inform the next generation of school procurement.

Barrier

Without clear design guides based on best practice, government cannot easily set net-zero aims within its procurement. Procurement is still too led by lowest cost output rather than best value outcome.

Process innovation

The collaboration, with Construction Innovation Hub (CIH) and DfE, has developed the GenZero design guide to enable a standardised platform or 'kit of parts' approach to manufacture schools. The aim is to reduce cost, reduce the labour and time needed on site to build the structure, meaning schools can be constructed at pace.

Digital Innovation

The design guide will be digitised to enable it to be used by other Government departments that procure buildings, to share best practice.

Whole life innovation

The Net Zero design model will highlight the specifications required in future procurements to achieve the low-emissions. This will ensure that the whole-life value metrics that matter the most to school users, can be measured and monitored to reach Net Zero targets.

Collaborators

GenZero is a £4m project between Department for Education (DfE), Innovate UK, Construction Innovation Hub (CIH) and Active Building Centre (ABC). The work is supported by the Infrastructure & Projects Authority to help the Government realise its ambition of using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) to meet Net Zero targets through the buildings it procures. DfE, CIH and the construction sector have developed a whole new design concept that optimises manufacturability, as well as whole life value.

  • ABC
  • CIH
  • Department for Education
  • Infrastructure & Projects Authority

Lead support

Transforming Construction (delivered by UKRI) supported and helped oversee the project, which integrates expertise, funding and knowledge across the Construction Innovation Hub (CIH) and Active Building Centre (ABC). An exceptional case was made for funding to accelerate the market 'pull' that this work would generate from the Government.

Long Term Vision

Department for Education (DfE) aims to build up to 200 new schools a year to provide enough places for pupils and renew existing buildings. This project has developed a new standardised design concept that
will not only deliver schools that create optimum spaces for learning and mental and physical health, but also provide more sustainable buildings that help us meet 2050 Net Zero targets. This project has the potential to fundamentally transform how the Department for Education (DfE) procures schools and shift focus from capital cost to whole-life value.

Human Stories

There is growing evidence that buildings that provide good quality environments including access to green space and excellent air quality are better for healthy and productive outcomes and promote well-being. It is believed that this new design concept will promote healthier spaces to learn and thrive. The modern methods of construction recommended will also support a more efficient supply chain and construction, and have the potential to reduce delays and frustrations that can come with large scale and complex projects
like school builds - leading to a more productive experience for the build team. Government procurement teams will also be reassured that they are buying for a net-zero future.

Powerful Processes

This project speaks to the power of collaboration. Department for Education (DfE), Innovate UK, Construction Innovation Hub (CIH) and Active Building Centre (ABC) have come together to develop a standardised design for school builds. The new design concept improves supply chain process as frames can be easily manufactured using a platform or 'kit of parts' approach. The Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) recommended will increase efficiencies, minimise transport and reduce material use throughout the build. And in its digital format, the design concept can be shared and applied as best practice across Government departments and across the wider industry.

Fascinating Facts

Department for Education (DfE) aims to build up to 200 new schools a year to provide enough places for pupils and renew existing buildings. GenZero is a £4m project between Department for Education (DfE),
Innovate UK, Construction Innovation Hub (CIH) and Active Building Centre (ABC) to create new standards in school builds to help meet 2050 Net-Zero targets. The new standardised design rules will feed in to DfE procurement and have the potential to improve productivity, active energy and health of learners, while reducing build times, capital costs, carbon emissions. Reporting will measure progress against these important benefits and metrics.

Benefits

Active Energy
Working with the DfE, the Active Building Centre (ABC) will measure the energy produced from schools built to new design concepts. The new design standards support the use of technology and techniques such as solar walls and panels, hot water pumps, and energy storage or release.

Cost
Keeping capital cost low has previously been a barrier to building more sustainable schools. The new design concept will support a reduction in energy use which will, in turn, reduce running costs for schools. The kit of parts manufacture and assembly also has the potential to reduce supply chain and labour costs. The project will track cost savings.

Emissions
This project was conceived to help meet 2050 Net Zero targets and to inform new design standards, from which future schools will be built, will actively promotes more sustainable, reduced-carbon schools. The new design concept promotes active energy buildings that can store, reduce or generate some of their own energy and store it where appropriate. The kit of parts manufacture and assembly processes can reduce emissions through an efficient supply chain, reduced materials and reduced transport. The project will track carbon reductions.

Health
There is growing evidence that buildings that provide good quality environments including access to green space and excellent air quality are better for healthy and productive outcomes and promote wellbeing. This new design concept will promote healthier spaces to learn

Productivity
Department for Education (DfE) aims to build up to 200 new schools a year to provide enough places for pupils and renew existing buildings. The new design concept supports more efficient processes and techniques that will improve the time, labour and cost involved in school builds. This in turn has the potential to increase productivity. The project will track productivity.

Time
Department for Education (DfE) aims to build up to 200 new schools a year to provide enough places for pupils and renew existing buildings. The new design concept supports more efficient processes and techniques that will improve the time involved in school builds. The project will track time savings.

Uptake
Concepts derived from the design developed in this project will be applied to the next DfE procurement framework (~£2.5bn in FY21/22). Its digital format means the designs can be used by other Government departments that procure buildings, to share best practice and be more quickly adopted.

Whole-life Value
The net-zero design model will highlight the specifications required in future procurements to achieve low emissions. It will also support the construction of learning spaces that promote mental and physical health. This will ensure that the whole-life value metrics that matter the most to school users are applied, measured and monitored to help us reach 2050 Net Zero targets.