VERYSchool: Managing Energy Consumption in Our Schools

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Tom Murphy has worked as a producer and cameraman specialising in current affairs and documentaries, filming in many different environments, hostile and otherwise, throughout the world. @tom_murphy

No one is going to solve the issue of global warming overnight. It is going to take long-term thinking and planning based on real data — not hopeful stabs in the dark fueled by wishful thinking. Along with rational thinking and clear reasoning we have to change outlooks and attitudes while making a serious effort to develop new habits that will to lead to the beneficial behaviours that will be substantially less damaging to our planet and the quality of our lives.

Since we are going to have to work across the generations to solve the most important problem of our time then we need to start with our children. More than 22% of Europe’s population attend a school every day. That amounts to more than 107 million students and more than 3 million faculty, staff and administrators.

Most of these schools that these children attend are either very old or were low cost builds on tight local authority budgets. But they are what we have and in many ways they are the ideal place to implement the changes that we know are necessary.

The European Commission thinks so too. It has funded the VERYSchool project as part of its greater aim to reduce energy consumption by 28% by 2050.

Four schools are part of the pilot scheme, two in Italy, one in Bulgaria and the other in Portugal. At the technological heart of the initiative is the Energy Action Navigator (EAN). It is designed as a decision-making tool with the ability to integrate hardware and software with readily available technologies.

With 25 years experience working in the areas of energy efficiency and sustainable building/development Alfio Galatà is ideally suited to help lead the VERYSchool project.

According to Alfio the Navigator allows the energy manager to apply, “What we call action management. In general the Navigator will supply the manager, case by case, with the best automatized scenario. The automatized scenarios are a catalogue — a playbook in the Navigator. The Navigator, using experimental data, will check which of the parameters are not automatized and suggest modifications.”

They have the possibility to simulate some scenarios and be able to [make decisions.] It can also suggest the best technology they can use. If you look at the market, everyday we discover there is a new ICT solution or a new ICT proposal to do something.”

If you have to make a decision it is easy to be confused about what is on offer.

“Once we have identified one automatized scenario we are able to provide the decision-maker with a complete set of information. ‘To do this you can use this type of sensor and this type of sensor costs this much in the market.’

“Information about scenarios are cataloged in an intelligent database. You can have descriptive answers about what is available. What are the things you can do? What are the technologies and systems available to you to implement the solution? The implementation will also cover the ICT selection and also costs along with the payback period."

All this operates within the framework of the new ISO 50001 standard. It puts, “All the action management in a closed loop control called PDCA — Plan, Do, Check, Act. For any action that you might do there is always feedback.

“We are technicians and we are trained to find technical solutions but we strongly believe that the public awareness campaign and the role of knowledge sharing is [important] for this project.

"Technology is not enough to achieve results. We need to merge technology with the organisation and people’s behaviour. So, knowledge sharing is extremely important.

"There is the school manager, there is the facility manager, there is the energy manager, and there is the property manager. Included in this managerial mix are the people for whom the building exists, the teachers and the students."

The students themselves are referred to as ‘learning users’ and can give input to the process by such means as questionnaires.

“Students are our future. We need to prepare them. This is a key concept that we have clearly in mind."

Alfio points out that VERYSchool is a result orientated project as opposed to pure research. "We have four technologies that have been integrated that constitute the Navigator.

“One is Enerit’s platform which 50% of the Navigator relies on.

“Then we have other software from a Scottish company, IES that deals with simulations. When we identify a scenario the IES software will be able to simulate it and provide very detailed information in terms of energy performance and carbon emissions which we can combine with cost analysis.

"We have technology at field level that performs the building control.

“All this information will be put together in the Navigator by our partners at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences where a user friendly interface is being developed.”

“We strongly believe that we need tools like the Navigator. We are moving from the building to the district. It is recognized that it has a huge potential for hitting the targets the the European Commission has committed to for 2020 and then 2050.

Enerit, one of our partners in the project, claim that through action management alone they can save up to 10% on energy consumption. We think 28% is a doable target."


VERYSchool is funded by public money. Alfio and the consortium of organisations involved in the VERYSchool project are keen to acknowledge the role of the European Commission for making this project happen.

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