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OVERVIEW | School buildings as leading examples of energy efficient renovation

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OVERVIEW - School buildings as leading examples of energy efficient renovation

Brandengen school, photo (c) SINTEF / K. Buvik

Throughout the Recast Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) it is requested that “the public sector in each Member State should lead the way in the field of energy performance of buildings” and “buildings occupied by public authorities and buildings frequently visited by the public should set an example”. Among the most promising public building types to act as lighthouse projects are school buildings. They are visited by people belonging to different age groups such as pupils, teachers and parents. Classes can offer pupils first-hand experience of visible improvements to the building envelope and the technical services systems, they can learn how to support energy savings by responsible user behaviour. Furthermore, pupils can actively participate in the renovation process and transfer what they have learned to their parents. The European Commission has in recent years co-funded several projects that deal with energy efficient school retrofit.


EU FP7 demonstration project “School of the Future”


FP7/ENER/260102 School of the Future


The project “School of the Future – Towards Zero Emission with High Performance Indoor Environment” started in February 2011 and was completed in January 2016. The core of the project was the energy efficient renovation of four school buildings in Germany, Italy, Denmark and Norway. Local planning teams were supported by an advisory group consisting of researchers and building industry representatives who provided additional ideas to achieve reduction in total final energy by a factor of 3. At the same time the buildings' indoor comfort was improved which resulted in better academic performance by the pupils. Some highlights of the renovation approach included: strongly improved thermal envelopes and ventilation systems with high heat recovery rates; a combined heat and power unit at the school in Stuttgart, Germany; detailed zoning for heating and a PV array that covers the annual electricity demand for the school in Cesena, Italy; LED lighting at the school in Ballerup, Denmark; and triple-glazed windows and a heat pump at a historical school building in Drammen, Norway. All projects were monitored, and the final results will soon be available on the project website along with the outcomes of indoor comfort questionnaires and lessons learned.


Reports on the design and the whole demonstration building approach have been produced, together with a technology screening for renovation measures at model schools, a building diary and several retrofit guidelines [1] [2]. A user-friendly tool facilitates assessment of energy efficiency measures as part of school lectures. Training materials for pupils, teachers and caretakers along with an information tool that features numerous case studies of energy efficient school renovations complete the package. All results can be found on the project website. As part of the dissemination [3] [4], the project runs a community on energy efficient schools on BUILD UP in cooperation with the VERYSchool project. 


EU CIP project VERYSchool


ICP PSP 297313 VERYSchool

ICP PSP 297313 VERYSchool


The VERYSchool project (Valuable EneRgY for a smart School), which ran from 2012 to 2014, received funding under the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Policy Support Programme. It features the Energy Action Navigator platform which is dedicated to schools and integrates smart LED lighting, smart metering, Building Energy Managements Systems (BEMS), energy simulation and energy action management software. The project demonstrated technologies in four pilot locations in Europe. Some key project results include a catalogue of optimised scenarios which is an e-book that helps to enhance decision-making in the establishment of an efficient energy management programme. Other results include a report on possible ICT business models for schools and a guide for financing energy smart schools.







The ongoing project promotes quick, affordable, green and healthy school renovations. It does this by using prefabricated timber façade elements in combination with other energy saving measures such as intelligent ventilation, shading and renewable energy systems. The project facilitates networking, 

exchange and training activities between research, companies, school owners and financers.


The project features 18 exemplary buildings, i.e. recently renovated schools and nursery school buildings such as the St. Leonhard primary school and kindergarden in Austria, the Søreide Primary School in Norway, the Gymnasium Reutershagen in Germany or the Storžek Kindergarten in Slovenia, which is also presented in a video.


School visits, training sessions, technology talks and other events are organised and communicated by the project. The project started in March 2014 and will end in February 2017. 


IEE project ZEMedS


IEE/12/711 ZEMedS


ZEMedS (Zero Energy MEDiterranean Schools) is a 3-year project (2013 – 2016) co-funded within the Intelligent Energy Programme that promoted the renovation of schools to become Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings (NZEB) in Mediterranean climates. The project’s activities were principally aimed at school policy makers and building designers, by providing technical and financial assistance on NZEB renovation of schools in Mediterranean climates, and by giving support for the successful implementation of school renovations with NZEB goals. Some outputs of ZEMedS include a status report on NZEBs in Mediterranean countries, a technical & financial toolkit, ten case studies, NZEB tendering specifications and 60 training events held in the participating countries.




The four European projects mentioned above underline the importance of this building type in helping to raise awareness regarding energy efficient building renovation. This message is also reinforced by other similar projects such as TEENERGY, SchoolVentCool and 68 school building cases of good practice in energy saving that have been presented on BUILD UP. The buildings themselves serve as demonstration case studies, but they also help to educate and train planners and building users (including by integrating them into lectures) and this helps to maximise their impact. 


The international work is also supported by national programmes and projects that focus on school buildings. A prominent example of this is the EnEff:Schule research focus of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy that includes pilot projects up to plus energy schools for new and renovated buildings. A specific support programme by the state-owned KfW bank for educational plus energy buildings was announced in January 2015. 



[1] School of the Future retrofit guideline "Improved indoor environmental quality"
[2] School of the Future retrofit guideline: "Building construction elements"
[3] School of the Future as lighthouse project at WSED 2015
[4] School of the Future is focus of a broadcast on Deutschlandradio