Primary School becomes valuable addition to local community with BREEAM Outstanding, Durham County council

The development is a new build primary school to replace the school facilities on the site of the existing Primary School in the village of Brandon in County Durham.

BREEAM Outstanding (87.7%)
BREEAM Education 2008
Architect: Redbox Architecture
Principal Contractor: Sir Robert McAlpine
Assessor Company: WYG Group Ltd

About the Building

The development is a new build primary school to replace the school facilities on the site of the existing Primary School in the village of Brandon in County Durham.

The school is a single-storey building (with net floor area of 2,824m2), housing educational and ancillary facilities for 390 pupils from Reception to Year 6, as well providing a 26 place nursery.

The school also provides a Day Care facility and facilities for community use (parent/community room and training rooms), which can be securely accessed from the rest of the school building. These are available for use both during and after the school day.

Green Strategy

Durham County Council had aspirations to achieve BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ and set out a roadmap to achieving this from the project outset, ensuring that the entire project team were fully engaged in the BREEAM process and that all aspects of the BREEAM assessment were reviewed on a regular basis throughout the design and construction process.

A low carbon building, the development sought to minimise energy consumption through design, such as improved performance of the building envelope as well as maximising the use of natural daylighting and ventilation in addition to the wider integration of a range of low and zero carbon technologies.

Recognising that a sustainable building involves a wider consideration of environmental issues than solely minimising energy consumption, the development has also sought to utilise a range sustainable low impact construction materials, procuring these locally and in a responsible manner where possible and balancing functional requirements against life cycle costs.

The construction phase has a strong focus on minimising environmental impacts and non-hazardous construction waste generation, utilising sustainable construction methods and practices as well as monitoring and managing energy, water and waste consumption – exceeding standards of best practice in site management,

The new school is a valuable addition to the local community, not only in the new community facilities provided but also through the demonstration of practicable sustainable technologies and functional ecological habitats. The school presents itself as a valuable practical learning resource on environmental issues to pupils and teachers and aligns well with the 8 Doorways in the Sustainable Schools Programme.

Environmental Features

  • Maximising the use of natural ventilation using both openable windows and automatically actuated high level windows and roof lights to ensure good ventilation and thermal comfort.
  • Utilisation of Earth Tubes, which exploit ground source energy via controlled ventilation to introduce fresh air into the school cooler than outside air temperature in the summer and warmer in the winter. Free cooling and pre-heating of supply air.
  • Biomass boiler which burns wood pellets to provide heating throughout the school.
  • Maximising the use of natural daylighting by optimising room depth and provision of northern lights to reduce glare and artificial lighting loads.
  • Utilisation of low carbon design features, including high thermal mass, good air tightness and insulation of the building envelop combined with heat recovery.
  • Electricity and heating sub-metering to measure the use of energy throughout different areas of the building.
  • Installation of a number of Low and Zero Carbon Technologies including 350m2 Photo voltaic panels, biomass boilers and solar water pre-heaters which enables the development to achieve 90% reduction over the 2002 Building Regulations part L requirements.
  • Installation of water efficient sanitary fittings and rainwater harvesting systems to meet WC flushing and reduce potable water use.
  • A high percentage of building materials selected to A and A+ criteria from the Green Guide to Specification.
  • Creation of a bat roosts and wetland habitat alongside native tree and hedgerow planting to complement the Local Biodiversity Action Plan.
  • Encouragement of sustainable travel through safe pedestrian and cyclist access arrangements, provision of cyclist facilities and electric car charging points for staff and visitor use.
  • Full engagement with the local community and provision of secure accessible community facilities for use both during and outside of the school day.

The building performed particularly well in the following BREEAM categories:

  • Management – 100%
  • Waste – 100%
  • Energy – 95.24%
  • Water – 87.50%
  • Materials – 80%
  • Innovation (Performance above and beyond standard credit requirements) – 70%

Lessons Learned and Future Plans

Brandon Primary School has proven to be an exemplar template for the development of sustainable educational facilities in the county. Some of the sustainability and design principles key to the success of Brandon Primary School have already been successfully applied to the development of two further schools in the county.

Some of the design features taken from Brandon school and applied to these new schools are based on an acquired understanding through the design process, that building form, layout and structure have an as important part to play in delivering sustainable, energy ‘lean’ developments, as the integration of expensive technologies. Getting this right at the outset can assist to maximise energy efficiencies of the building, as well as delivering aesthetically pleasing and functional buildings and enhancing the environments in which they are located.

By following the ‘8 Doorways of Sustainability’ and engaging the users, key stakeholders and design specialists from project inception the Council has acquired the knowledge, tools and contacts to deliver sustainable buildings in the future. To this end and to ensure that the knowledge gained through this project is translated into future educational development, in 2015 we are looking to prepare an internal guide to sustainable construction to underpin the design and construction principles for all our future new build and major refurbishment projects.

What benefits does BREEAM Certification Offer?

Paul Hopson, Senior Project Manager, Durham County Council says: “From the outset we aspired to create the most sustainable school possible for the pupils, staff and community. The results were not disappointing. When deciding how best to deliver and evaluate this pledge, we always returned to the BREEAM system. The BREEAM broad assessment methodology model covered all major aspects of the schools sustainable development and was integral in our push for the Outstanding rating.

“The Council, Designers and Constructors have all worked together with teachers, pupils, Governors and the wider community throughout the schools development. The result being a building that’s both a practical teaching tool for staff to integrate sustainability into the various curriculum subjects, while enriching the local area and Brandon as a whole.

“Looking specifically at the design, it’s the joined-up thinking approach that’s particularly pleasing. A typical example being that each individual classroom roof faces south west and is equipped with north facing windows. These windows provide natural ventilation and glare free light while the roof mounted solar panels are pitched at an optimum angle to capture the maximum solar energy.

“Whilst the environmental benefits speak for themselves, it is the integration between the building and the occupants that has proven most significant.  The new environment has inspired teachers and pupils alike to explore the bond between their new school and natural environment in which it sits.  The building has proven so successful in this regard that we’ve incorporated the design concept and building form into future primary school replacements.

“The BREEAM model has helped us create an Outstanding, first class educational venue for our children and it is a privilege to be associated with a school that has been built in a way that both respects and complements its environment so well”.

Summary of BREEAM Experience

The school has been designed and built to ensure the ethos of sustainability runs collectively throughout the building and the community it serves. Early BREEAM planning was essential to the project’s success and the early appointment of an in-house BREEAM trained Sustainability Officer brought tangible benefits via careful planning and the monitoring of progress.

The new school was constructed several meters away from the original, therefore careful pupil control and safety were paramount. Pupil safety and learning opportunities were captured via regular contractor workshop/presentations and site supervised pupil visits.

The internal environment benefits from the careful integration of natural ventilation via earth pipes, solar shading, photovoltaic arrays, solar water heating, biomass boiler, rainwater harvesting and an abundance of natural light. These together with internal courtyards all combine to provide a sustainable and safe learning environment for pupils and staff. Whereas the external environment benefits from wildlife areas, bat roosts and aquatic wildlife wetland.

The school and grounds are now fully used by the wider Brandon community and include a 26 place nursery, day care facilities and community rooms. The school also includes 2no. external Sport England specification playing fields and a multi-use games area (MUGA) for shared public use.

Through careful adherence to the BREEAM model the new school presents itself as a valuable and practical learning resource on environmental matters, not only for pupils and teachers, but also the wider community.

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