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“It started out as the need to stand out in what is an increasingly saturated market.” Hivve is a self-contained, low energy, modular school classroom with a difference. With Australian cities and towns continuing to grow and develop, the demand on outdated school infrastructure continues to put pressure on classroom sizes and the quality of learning that can be delivered to the next generation. New school infrastructure works can be costly and loud with an impact on both the schools learning environment and the physical environment. Hivve is an innovative solution meeting these demands with a sustainable and forward-thinking outlook on what school infrastructure could become.
Hivve is a smart “portable” or modular classroom system that allows for full control over the learning environment, providing a light and comfortable setting conducive to learning. Based on research from leading international works, Hivve classrooms have capabilities to monitor and adjust room temperature, lighting layouts and even air quality. A milestone of the project was the research surrounding air quality which found “a clear correlation between CO2 levels in a classroom and ability to focus and learn.” The classrooms are built completely off-site with expertise from Eastern Portable Buildings (EPB), the company that David is currently managing director of, as well as input from civil engineering firm ARUP Group. This reduces waste and energy output during the construction phase and use of environmentally responsible materials ensures that the impact of construction is minimal.
The real innovation of the project has turned out to be the “intelligent building management system”, Hivve IQ, which has evolved from the original innovation. In the initial design, the system afforded teachers full control over the learning environment through ventilation systems, air conditioning and lights. In order to power such technology, solar panels were used with partnership from Tesla to coordinate the energy storage system. “The biggest surprise of the whole project was how efficient the whole system was. The batteries remained fully charge and the system was able to output excess power to surrounding classrooms. We were making more and using less energy than we expected.” The Hivve IQ technology has since evolved to be retrofitted to existing classrooms, allowing classrooms to be independently powered by solar power with the power and environment monitoring facilities that the company provide.
The main driver for the inception of Hivve and the low energy modular classroom system was a need to differentiate. Coming from EPB and operating in what is a large industry supplying modular buildings to Sydney and surrounding suburbs, David recalls noticing “a rise in the number of new school buildings going up across the state.” Noticing the rising demand for modular classrooms and the current costs that were required for schools to expand their facilities, the Hivve team identified a gap in the market for a smarter classroom with lower running costs that kids would enjoy learning in. Further interest in the project was sparked with initiatives such as running the system entirely off the grid, with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) getting involved to push the renewable energy side of innovation.
The success of Hivve has seen the rapid demand for the system continuing to increase. With over a dozen classrooms in operation across NSW and into Brisbane, the potential for the design to expand across Australia is exciting for students everywhere. Boasting 100% energy generated from solar panels, Hivve classrooms generate up to 10,000 kWh of energy every year, saving schools around $3000 per year on energy expenses (Hivve.com, 2019). On top of this, the installation cost of traditional classrooms are often prohibiting for schools at full power infrastructure capacity. Hivve reduces these costs with the system being completely self-sufficient and implementable with very little or no extra infrastructure. Stepping back though, the impact of these classrooms in teaching the next generation about the benefits of renewable energy and low cost, low waste solutions to everyday facilities is a benefit that cannot be ignored.
The business benefit of this product can be measured from many perspectives. Hivve, for their part, have developed a system and product of high demand. Demand for which is only likely to increase as space for schools and other infrastructure reduces and energy costs continue to rise. Schools can create benefit in reducing costs and attracting students with state-of-the-art facilities. Finally, the partner companies and institutions that have been involved in Hivve along the journey have increased their technical knowledge in a field that is constantly growing.
The environmental impact of these classrooms was carefully considered in their design. The construction and management systems employed mean that, from the construction phase to its operation, a Hivve classroom manages its impact. Clear examples of this impact include reducing the waste and power generated through off-site construction and managing power demand during its day to day operation.
Schools are the backbone institution to our community. It is a huge benefit that the education of the next generation of “global citizens” occurs in an environment, that is not only comfortable and encourages learning, but also puts sustainability and sustainable living to the forefront of the classroom. Teaching the next generation about the benefits of renewable energy and low cost, low waste solutions in facilities we use every day is an important step in reducing the impact of human development. Further to this, Hivve classrooms can be implemented anywhere that the sun shines, meaning the potential to support communities across the country.
It is exciting to consider where this innovation could take not only the school system, but all the building infrastructure that we use every day.
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David Wrench, Managing Director
Hivve Technology creates sustainable schools, integrating clean energy with smart technology to create healthy environments that optimise learning.