[Case study] Reducing energy consumption and costs at large schools

Chrissie Turkington

Chrissie is head of ICT, e-Learning and Libraries at Bolton School.

Twitter: @cturkington

Website: www.magpieconsultancy.co.uk Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

With 2,300 pupils, Bolton School is one of the largest independent day schools in the country. Two similar adjoined buildings house the Boys’ and Girls’ Senior Schools, and there are separate junior departments for boys and girls, an infant school and a nursery. Our network infrastructure consists of: more than 1300 workstations, notepads and laptops; a VOIP system including around 250 handsets; interactive whiteboards in the majority of classrooms; 150 projectors; over 200 printers, scanners and multifunction devices; and 100 switches, routers and wireless access points.

Needless to say, all this equipment consumes a considerable amount of energy and has significant maintenance and running costs. Yet at Bolton School, we are determined to increase our energy efficiency and to reduce our carbon emissions and use of consumables. And despite the complexity and scale of the school's use of technology, we have found that, with the right technologies and initiatives, it is possible to make changes that greatly reduce costs and energy consumption, while improving IT infrastructure.

Before I joined the School, the work had already begun: over 40 traditional servers had been replaced with a Blade Centre and a storage area network as part of a virtualisation programme aimed at upgrading an increasingly complex system in the most affordable way possible. The goal of this initiative is to deliver high-availability IT systems and secure off-site access, while reducing energy, support and maintenance costs. Our recent calculations, based on current energy prices, indicate that the server virtualisation already achieved could result in a saving of around £8,000 in energy costs every year.

The school’s IT, e-Learning and libraries strategy, which is currently in development, aims to build on the server virtualisation savings. Alongside our desire to be innovative, this strategy will be underpinned by the need to be both environmentally and financially sustainable.

We recently evaluated printing and photocopying costs across the school and instigated a project to encourage more efficient printing practices and better use of digital media. We have also implemented an automated print management solution, which monitors network printing and sends report to Heads of Departments detailing their departmental printing and photocopying costs. Although the potential financial savings of such measures are small, they should reduce our usage of paper and printer consumables, and encourage us to be more innovative in our use of virtual learning platforms and mobile technologies.

Other energy- and money-saving measures that are in place include the use of a network switch-off script to shut down computers at the end of the school day, a policy of switching off projectors when not in use, recycling printing consumables, and procuring more energy-efficient LCD monitors whenever we replace old monitors or purchase new workstations.

Along with these initiatives, the virtualisation project continues, with the phased introduction of more energy-efficient “thin clients” (low-powered network computers which use the main servers for processing and data storage) and the installation of a virtualisation software on existing PCs. Again, calculations based on current energy costs and research provided by our supplier show the possibility of considerable financial savings and CO2 reductions. For example, if we replaced 100 PCs with thin clients, we could potentially save over £4,000 worth of energy per year and around 4 tonnes of CO2 – though these figures do not account for the environmental costs of disposing of old hardware or the financial costs of procuring new equipment.

We have a long way to go to, but we feel that with the above initiatives, accompanied by clear strategies and procurement policies, we are heading towards a superior IT infrastructure which will result in significant carbon and financial savings for the School.

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