Overbury ran a Dragon’s Den-inspired competition to engage science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students in Liverpool to think about the sustainability impact of their schools.

The project is part of Overbury’s community outreach while it undertakes two major projects in Liverpool city centre: The Royal College of Physicians in the Spine Building and the new Government Hub and home to HMRC’s Liverpool Regional centre at India Buildings on Water Street.

Vicky Dootson, Overbury’s environmental and sustainability manager, made a socially-distanced visit to each of the schools to introduce the project and teach the students the core elements of the environmental audit.

Three schools – St Julie’s, Maricourt, and Broughton Hall – competed for a £5,000 prize for their school to implement the winning students’ idea.

In small teams, the students began carrying out their audit, guided by the tools that Overbury provided. The review tool taught the students about various elements of sustainability, including biodiversity, energy use, global citizenship, healthy living and waste. The students were free to select all, or just a few, factors to audit in their teams. A spreadsheet-based tool allowed students to estimate their school’s carbon footprint.

Once their audits were complete, the students started brainstorming which areas of environmental sustainability were most important to tackle. They were encouraged to research initiatives that had been used elsewhere and decide what was possible in their school, both in practical and financial terms. Once inspiration had struck, the teams created a Dragon’s Den-inspired presentation to pitch their idea to the judging panel. The teams described the process they had been through to build their idea and why it should be selected.

In late November, the students presented their ideas in a format of their choice via a video call to the panel of judges including John Wood, project director at Overbury; Joe Croft, head of environmental and sustainability at Overbury; Gennaro Sarno, senior project manager at Overbury; Robert Hopkins, regional director at AHR Architecture; and Patrick Staunton, health and wellness lead at CBRE.

“Although the project was beyond the scope of what most students are asked to complete while at school, their creativity and ingenuity blew us all away,” said John Wood, Overbury's project director. “So much so, we decided to increase the prize pot to give more students the opportunity to implement their ideas.”

St Julie’s school was awarded £5,000 to implement their winning proposal. Their headline idea was to ban single-use plastics. The students found that, as a new build, the school’s running was relatively efficient, but a notable problem was the number of plastic bottles sold in the school canteen. Although the school provided recycling bins, the majority of these bottles ended up in the general waste. Over the course of the academic year, the school got through over 51,800 bottles – resulting in a carbon footprint greater than driving a car around the world four times.

The students proposed the installation of five water fountains in the school. They suggested that the school could sell reusable water bottles with the school logo on at a small profit to go towards the maintenance of the fountains.

Maricourt school received a £2,500 contribution towards an initiative to recycle food waste. They were inspired by the Live Simply Award that encourages communities to live in a more sustainable way and advocate on behalf of those living in poverty. For their project, they suggested both litter picking and a compost bin or wormery would allow them to recycle food waste into a vegetable garden at the school.

Broughton Hall received £1,500 to fund their flower garden. One of the students had been part of a beekeeping club at a previous school and her love of the project and the environment inspired a similar initiative.

Overbury’s project has inspired students to make a real, tangible difference in their own daily lives. The students have come to see how the environmental science they are taught in class impacts the world around them. “The project was designed to engage students in STEM subjects and teach them about the importance of environment and sustainability projects, but it has done more than that,” says Vicky Dootson. “The enthusiasm and resourcefulness of the students has inspired their teachers and all those involved. The students show the promise of a new generation that is more passionate about the environment than ever.”

This community project is just a part of Overbury’s passion for minimising its environmental impact and helping its clients to do the same. Overbury fit outs have received the first ever outstanding BREEAM certification under the BREEAM RFO scheme, the first SKA gold rated project, the first LEED gold office fit-out in the UK, and the largest WELL certified building in Europe.

St Jules's headline idea was to ban single use plastic. Their numbers speak for themselves.
Maricourt school focused on an initiative to recycle food waste. They were inspired by the Live Simply Award.
A student at Broughton Hall was inspired to create a flower garden to protect bees.