Ecclesiastical’s customer segment director says ’brokers play an important role’ in helping education clients understand risk 

Insurer Ecclesiastical has issued new guidance for brokers, to support those that deal with education clients on managing key risks in new buildings and sustainable projects.

This coincides with Ecclesiastical’s latest research, published in November 2021, which surveyed 500 UK school leaders. The findings revealed that schools are responding to the climate crisis by investing in sustainable technologies and improving the efficiency of existing school buildings.

For example, 86% of the UK schools surveyed are currently in the process of constructing, or are planning to construct new buildings.

This includes 21% of schools where construction is currently taking place and 53% that will have new buildings constructed within the next one to five years.

Meanwhile, 11% of the schools polled plan to construct new buildings in more than five years’ time.

Other building work projects schools are exploring include electric vehicle charging points (31%) and triple glazing (29%).

Faith Kitchen, Ecclesiastical Insurance’s customer segment director, said: “As one of the leading insurers of schools in the UK, Ecclesiastical is passionate about supporting the education sector.

“Brokers play an important role in helping education clients understand the risks they are facing and ensuring they have the right cover in place.”

Ecclesiastical launched its new proposition, Ecclesiastical Smart Properties, with property performance specialist Shepherd in July 2021. This uses technology to discreetly monitor for escape of water and electrical fire risks in real-time.

Schools piloting this technology will also have the option to expand the system to monitor other types of risks and issues, including improving energy consumption and carbon footprint reduction. This is provided at an additional cost.

Managing new risks

Ecclesiastical’s survey also pinpointed the most popular sustainable investments schools are making within the next year. These include solar photovoltaics (PV) or heating panels (45%), buildings using modern methods of construction (MMC), such as cross laminated timber and rainscreen cladding (31%), and green, living walls or roofs (31%).

Kitchen added: “We hope this new risk guidance will help brokers encourage their education clients to consider how best to manage the risks they face when investing in new buildings and sustainability projects.”

Guidance for schools investing in new buildings and sustainable projects

  • When considering a new school building or sustainability project, consult all interested parties - including insurers - at the earliest stage. This is because insurers’ requirements for fire protection and building resilience may be higher than building regulations. Insurers should be involved at the design and planning stage, so they can work with schools to mitigate risks and advise on the protection measures needed.
  • Some materials used in MMC, such as timber framing and sheathing boards, insulation and cladding materials, are combustible. Where possible, look for alternative non-combustible materials to achieve the same sustainable results.
  • Natural materials, such as hemp, wool and straw and foam-based insulation products, are all classified as combustible materials when used in conjunction with timber framing or combustible cladding systems. This can therefore can have serious consequences for a building’s ability to withstand the effects of fire. Where possible, use a non-combustible material - such as mineral wool or cellular glass - to insulate buildings.
  • When planning to install solar panels, always investigate the structural suitability of the building or roof and liaise with fire and rescue services on the location of panels and isolation switches.
  • Always use an accredited installer for the installation of any solar panels or biomass heating systems.
  • Biomass heating systems can present fire and carbon monoxide poisoning risks. To reduce these risks, ensure they are contained in their own fire-resisting compartment which is separated from the fuel store. Restrict access to fuel stores for authorised persons only. Clean out the boiler house regularly and remove all combustible waste. Clear out fuel stores regularly and get flues to boilers inspected and cleaned regularly by a competent person.