Lessons in eco-friendliness. From grade school.

The Howe Dell Primary School

Copenhagen 2009 was an unmitigated disaster. The leaders of our free world proved once again that they’d much rather run around in circles, sulk a lot and make a mess of things – like school children out on a fucking picnic.

Elsewhere on the planet, another bunch of school children could actually teach them a thing or two about the environment.

The Howe Dell Primary School in Hatfield, England (you can check out their awfully designed, but well-meaning, website here), is a study in sustainability. Many of the materials used in its construction come from recycled sources (the desks are made of drainpipes). Solar heating panels warm up water. Skylights fill the classrooms and corridors with rich daylight. Thick exterior walls and window glasses reduce heat loss. Photovoltaic panels within the structure – and wind turbines nearby – supply electricity. The school’s green philosophy extends to the curriculum as well, with students being taught (among other things) to develop personal responsibility for the environment.

The playground outside is an integral part of the school in more ways than one: It’s the world’s first Inter-seasonal Heat Transfer (or IHT) system.

The tarmac of the playground conceals an ingenious solar panel, which captures energy through an asphalt solar collector and stores it away in a computer-controlled thermal storage facility underneath. Why is that so cool? Because, ordinarily, energy collected would either have to be exhausted immediately or stored, with considerable loss, in the form of electricity. The IHT system effectively stores heat (for warming the building during winters) and cold too, to be released during the summers. The system is intuitive, so it adjusts to changes in weather patterns and stores the energy accordingly.

Technological acronyms and trivia aside, the results of this project are nothing short of spectacular. The heat transfer system saves over 50% of carbon emissions compared to using a gas boiler for heating – and over 80% of carbon emissions compared to using standard air-conditioning for cooling.

Increasingly these days, ordinary citizens, civic bodies and organisations are environmentally-aware. They are more receptive/collaborative towards ideas of sustainability than some others who should be. Wish that our world leaders would take the hint and grow up.

P.S. The Howe Dell School is part of a series of ongoing, experimental (why don’t I like the sound of that?) projects supported by the Carbon Trust, a non-profit organisation set up by the UK government. So at least one nation seems to have its go-green agenda in the right place 🙂

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