Two existing primary schools were brought together at Exwick Heights, turning a greenfield site into a vibrant mixeduse development which serves both local primary children and the wider community.
The building relies on natural lighting and passive ventilation as a crucial contribution to the sustainable design for the site. Key to this strategy are large expanses of floor to ceiling VELFAC glazed screens, which provide the majority of the natural light to the internal teaching areas. When combined with the brise soleil to prevent adverse solar gains during the summer, auto-dimming lights and occupancy sensors, the result is an extremely economic lighting solution.
Passive ventilation. Jason Oakes of the design team points out that the VELFAC glazing was integral to the passive ventilation strategy. Central to this system is a lantern formed from VELFAC units above an atrium-like central space, which has been designed to help cross ventilate classrooms and passively remove unwanted heat build-up. The lantern is linked to temperature and CO2 sensors, and also allows a manual override. To ensure its environmental efficiency, we modelled the buildings environmental design at the Centre for Energy.
The glass box. The glazing also helped address some of the issues that come with a hillside location, such as the glass box created at the southeast corner of the building. This area forms a circulation and break-out space on the upper ground floor level, explains Jason, and also brings light, via the staircase, to the teaching accommodation below. To create this feature, we used an array of VELFAC units to form a parapet concealing the roof. This gave the visual appearance of a crisp glass box, in contrast to the solidity of the adjoining render panels, he adds.
The school remains a source of pride for the local community and, due to both its design and sustainable features, it has also garnered a number of prestigious awards, including a Crystal Apple for Built Environment in the 2008 Green Apple Awards, and the 2008 LABC Southwest Award for Best Environmental Building. It was also runner up in Building magazines 2008 Sustainability Awards, and was a finalist in the 2008 RIBA Town and Country Sustainability Awards.