New jails to be ‘net zero’, Lord Chancellor announces

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Four new prisons being built in England will use heat pumps, efficient lighting systems and thousands of solar panels to reduce energy demand by half and cut carbon emissions by ‘at least 85%’ compared to prisons already under construction, the government has announced.

This is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 280,000 tonnes, cut £100 million in energy costs over the next 60 years. Future prison expansions are also set to be built to similar standards.

The first of the four new prisons will be built next to HMP Full Sutton in East Yorkshire and work is underway to investigate locations for a further prison in the North West of England and two in the South East.

Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland commented on the announcement: “Our ambitious approach offers a unique opportunity to build back a safer and greener prison system.

“New jails will use new green technologies and modern methods of construction to ensure our prisons cut carbon emissions as well as reoffending.”

The new designs will learn from the construction of HMP Five Wells in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, and the new jail in Glen Parva, Leicestershire, which are reported to be constructed more sustainably than existing prisons, using recycled materials and incorporating green energy.

The four new prisons are reported to use an all-electric design that eliminates the need for gas boilers, meaning they are set to produce net-zero emissions when the National Grid decarbonises.

During construction, 40,000 tonnes of carbon are set to be prevented by using recycled concrete and steel.

Existing prisons are also benefiting from a £15 million investment to cut their emissions. Solar panels are being installed at a further 16 sites to meet 20% of their power demand, bringing the total number of solar panels across the estate to over 20,000.

More than 200 electric vehicle charging points are also being installed across 40 prisons.

Habitats for wildlife will also be cultivated at each prison to promote biodiversity and ensure the local ecology is stronger than before construction began.

The Ministry of Justice is seeking to achieve the gold-standard ‘outstanding’ rating in Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) for its four new prisons. BREEAM is an independent scheme which assesses the sustainability of infrastructure projects.