Mr Paul Bayley has been at Eton for 34 years, appointed a few years ago as Head of the Buildings Department. Mr Bayley led the team to be nominated as a finalist (along with our water consultants) of the annual Water Industry Award; our project was under the particular heading of Water Efficiency Project of the Year. Below is an interview with Mr Bayley, discussing how the climate within the school has evolved over the last few decades, what we should do in coming years, and more. 

How has Eton’s environment and awareness changed since you have been at the school? 

We’ve seen a huge improvement in the way that we’ve looked at all aspects of the environmental issues, really, in the sense that when I came originally, we weren’t looking at recycling, we weren’t even considering the environmental issues that go with it, so over a period of time, we have improved those, where we really now are reaching levels that we would never have expected to reach even probably 10 years ago. 

What have been the main improvements?

I think the improvements we’ve looked at are the energy consumption, because obviously, particularly now it’s quite expensive, but even before then we were conscious that our energy bills were always quite high so we looked at putting in thermostatic radiator valves into the boys’ rooms, we looked at having more controls on the systems, we looked at more efficient boilers being installed into the various locations, we had push-button showers, so that the showers weren’t running continuously, we’ve also got the water saving taps, so that you press them and only so much water comes out. We looked at all those aspects; we’ve also insulated and taken out quite a lot of the underground heating mains around the school, because again they’ve been in since the 1950s, so there has been deterioration of the lagging on them when they were underground. We’ve also looked at individual projects where, perhaps, if the underground heating mains were running long distances and therefore you were getting losses, we’ve put in its own boiler house like we have in Wotton, and Waynflete. Instead of being off group heating, it now has its own individual boiler house. That therefore saves heat losses particularly through the underground mains.  

Can you tell us a bit more about the award, and Eton’s water project? 

Yes, certainly. It’s very prestigious – it’s a national award. There are various categories, but we’re shortlisted for Water Efficiency Project of the Year, as you noted. About 15 years ago, we had a working relationship with a company called ADSM, who were based in Eton at that time. They came along with some proposals offering to look at our water consumption and take 50% of any savings that we would get as a result. We then did a 5 year contract with them, and once we did that, we sort of came away from it. About 3 years ago, ADSM came back to us and asked if we would be interested again. They said that they could look at it in a much more formal way, in the sense that they could install automatic water meters that they would read on a regular basis. They also proposed to have meter readings sent through by data loggers. We also made sure to change all the urinal controls in boys’ houses. Through all of those things, it would reduce the amount of water used. Now the really good thing is you can see what’s being used. As soon as they detect a small leak or that consumption has gone up and is opposed to the norm, they ring me. I then look at it, and we then get somebody (a plumber) to go and have a look at it, and you may find that maybe we’ve left a tap on, or it may be that we do have a major leak under the ground. So instantly, we’re able to pick up on these, and we’re able to actually sort out the damage that has been done. This saves us a considerable amount of water and waste, in the sense that the water is not just going to drain.  

Do you have any advice for the school moving forward? 

I think the difficulty with all of these things is ensuring that everybody actually gets involved in the environmental issues, so it’s not just an individual thing or a group of people – it must be everybody. One way we can do that is very much through education, and we need to make sure we’re pushing that to happen. But we shouldn’t overdo it, because that tends to put people off, so a gentle approach is better, whereby we’re making boys aware, we’re making staff aware, and we’re making masters aware. Even, to some degree, some of the elements of teaching can also illustrate all of the things that would be beneficial to the environment. I do think education and involvement is the way forward. Several years ago – probably 20 years ago – we did produce an energy magazine, but it wasn’t huge. It had a circulation to the school, though, which gave people ideas on how much we’re spending and our situation. In general, I don’t think people genuinely understand how much actually are spending. So for example, this year, our gas bill will be £2,400,000 and our electricity bill will be £1,000,000. We are talking about considerable sums of money, but also a lot of energy being used. Therefore, if we can somehow encourage people, that would be amazing. Although I think what’s really good is that the boys have really taken off with their recycling, and our recycling now has improved greatly. We’re being more conscious of food waste and sorting plastics from paper and whatnot. I think education is one thing, and I think forming relationships with our people who do our work is certainly another. By examples, Grundon do our waste, ADSM do our water, and talking about our utility companies, too. Building relationships with them, where we can look at modern technologies, and can put in place things that will make a difference will be an important thing in the near future.  

Good luck in retirement, Mr Bayley, and thank you for all the work that you’ve done here at Eton, which has evidently had a great impact! 

Brilliant, thank you very much indeed! 

Ralph Matta

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