Case Study

Net-Zero Biophilic Primary School – Winner Public Sector Innovation of the Year, MMC Awards 2023

Building type: Education | Multi Purpose
Project price: £4m at date of design
Completion date: 2025

Education Estates® is the annual gathering of the education community in partnership with the Department for Education and 2022 was its 10th anniversary. TG Escapes introduced a new single-entry nursery and primary concept school to accommodate 300 children aged 0-11 for a building cost of £4m at the time of design.

Designed with the outdoors in mind

The design utilises separate pavilions for various functions, connected by covered walkways and canopies, arranged to envelop a central landscaped, terraced area with an outdoor class at its centre. Walkways replace much redundant internal circulation with time outdoors, supporting various measures such as seating, outdoor play and learning facilities, and sedum roofs. It is a completely biophilic environment providing outdoor learning for the majority of the curriculum. Bright, airy buildings provide joyful spaces with high ceilings, exposed timber and abundant glazing for natural ventilation and light. Clad in natural timber they feature large solar PV arrays for sustainable net-zero operation. Biodiversity is a priority with bird and bat boxes, insect-supporting structures, natural living roofs, rainwater capture and ongoing tree planting.

Net-zero in operation and lifetime

Constructed almost entirely from timber, utilising Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) to provide a low-cost, rapidly erected, high-performance, durable, low embodied carbon and net-zero operation school that is affordable to build, maintain and run in comparison to alternative building types. The layout, landscaping and design is considered to create a stimulating, wholesome and healthy environment. The carbon calculation shows that Whole Life Carbon (WLC) will be 201kgCO2e/m2 which comes well within the RIBA 2030 target.

In addition, this form of construction can encourage environmental citizenship among students. As they see a timber building rising it helps them to understand the principles of sustainable construction. This school can be built in stages to accommodate the cohorts as they move through the key stages. This will mean they see each additional building stage as it is developed. This is possible because the modular construction process can be self-contained and kept safe which maintains education continuity everywhere else in the setting.

Why is there a need for biophilic design in schools?

Young people face the perfect storm;

  • covid
  • social media and other screen time
  • rigid education system structured around exams and targets
  • mental health crisis
  • future skill requirements unknown

We need young people to be

  • creative
  • adaptable
  • resilient
  • emotionally intelligent
  • socially capable
  • able to take care of their physical and mental well-being
  • energised to be the agents of change that the world needs

This video from the World Economic Forum outlines examples of the skills that children need to prepare them for an unknown future.

A biophilic environment is proven by many studies to help support these developmental needs. This webinar given at the Festival of Learning Spaces 2021, The Benefits of Biophilic Design in Schools, gives an overview and data sources. This pdf download summarizes research amongst children by Dr Rokhshid Ghaziani from the School of Architecture at the University of Portsmouth.

Whole Life Carbon

Building                                                         198  tCO2e
Solar PV                                                        260  tCO2e
Sedum                                                              5   tCO2e

Total                                                              463   tCO2e

Estimated grid operational carbon saving   -338   tCO2e

Whole Life Carbon                                        281   tCO2e   = 201kgCO2e/m2

This exceeds the RIBA 2030 target for schools

Costing analysis based on our turnkey sectional modular system (MMC Cat 2)

EBDOG benchmark survey for primary:
Average area per pupil – 5.69 m2
For the average 1984m2 = £2,224 pm2
BUT they add +10-15% for net zero = £2,500 pm2

TG Escapes Biophilic Concept School
Total cost to build accommodation excluding landscaping – £4m
Average area per pupil including circulation– 7.31 m2
Total area 2193 m2 = £1,823 pm2

NB. The costs shown here were calculated in 2022 and have since been subject to inflationary pressure. These will need to be recalculated at time of commission. 

“I am delighted to be involved in bringing TG Escapes’ vision of a biophilic school from concept to reality. Never has there been a more apposite time to marry the themes of sustainability and social mobility and embed them into a 21st century brand of education.”
Duncan Murphy
Director of Education, MTM Consulting