A Window into the Schools of the Future

Case Study: Sciennes School Annexe, Edinburgh

Our mission is to create buildings that thrive and are comfortable and healthy places to be. A comfortable, healthy living space can have many benefits for its inhabitants. This is extremely important in our homes, especially considering how much time we spend in them. But it should be essential when considering the spaces our children learn in the UK. 

A comfortable and healthy learning space is critical when it comes to schools. Children should not be exposed to environments detrimental to their learning and health. This is one of the reasons why many schools and local education authorities are now adopting Passivhaus standards to build new schools and school buildings. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in Scotland. 

In Scotland, there are currently 35 school projects under construction to Passivhaus Standards. We are extremely proud to have played our part already in Scotland’s Passivhaus Schools journey at Sciennes Primary School, Edinburgh. 

Sciennes School

Sciennes School Original Buildings from 1892

Sciennes Primary School, A New Annexe 

In the historic Marchmont area, amongst Edinburgh’s famous stone tenement buildings, sits a Grade B-listed primary school, Sciennes School. 

This year, a new £3.2 million, two-storey extension to the school opened its doors to its first pupils. The 431m2 classroom block was designed by Holmes Miller alongside Passivhaus Designer Sussed Sustainability and constructed by Maxi Construction Limited with M&E work by Blackwood Partnership.  

The new building offers the school four additional classrooms that lead to shared flexible teaching areas to encourage interaction between pupils. Carefully designed acoustics enable the open-plan classrooms to function independently when necessary. 

The exterior stonework of the new building was chosen to complement the existing school building, which dates from 1892, and its context within a conservation area. 

It is Scotland’s first Passivhaus primary school project to be constructed from cross-laminated timber (CLT). CLT has been used as the primary structural material for the walls, floor, roof and partitions and contributes to a warm and soothing interior environment, as well as delivering exceptional air tightness performance, which effectively reduces embodied carbon when compared to alternative structural solutions. 

To achieve Passivhaus standards, the building’s design follows a ‘fabric-first’ approach, focusing on air tightness and thermal performance. 

The New Annexe Building at Sciennes

The New Annexe Building at Sciennes

The importance of our windows 

The location of the new school building is overshadowed by the existing school. This gave significant issues for the design. For this reason, a highly efficient fabric was required to compensate for the lack of winter solar gain in this location. 

In addition, the proximity to the existing building exacerbated fire safety issues and therefore, the placement and design of our triple glazed windows had to be carefully considered and designed.  

Due to these multiple site constraints, working alongside Holmes Miller’s design, we helped in the design to utilise abundant windows on just two facades of the building. Our windows have been complimented with strategic roof lights, to infuse the entire learning space with natural light and to optimise the learning environment. 

Our large windows have even been integrated with window seats to create unique spaces for children to sit and learn. Our ULTRA alu clad (now GBS98-A) range windows were selected for the job. 

Using our triple glazing alongside the heavily insulated walls and roofs has helped to achieve the building’s Passivhaus certification. At the same time, mechanical ventilation heat recovery systems and air source heat pumps reduce energy consumption and improve thermal control. 

ULTRA alu Clad specifications 

  • Whole window Uw value 0.68 W/m2K (calculated for a standard window to BS EN14351) 
  • FSC certification  
  • High security, Secured by Design to all accessible windows 
  • Class 4 airtightness (the highest rating to BS EN 12207) with robust and durable dual compression seals 

The project prioritises a fabric-first approach, with meticulous attention to air tightness and thermal performance. Our windows have played a critical role in this process.  

The project aimed to achieve the impressive air tightness performance of 0.3 ACH @ 50 Pa.  The addition of our triple glazing allowed for this air tightness target to be achieved, with final air test results of 0.17 ACH for occupied conditions (MVHR systems operating) & 0.28 ACH night-time conditions (MHVR systems off).  

A Gold star and full marks for our work 

Holmes and Miller Architect and Project Director Clara Garriga said, “Due to the challenges that the location of the Annexe at Sciennes provided, we knew that the quality of the windows would be critical to achieving the standards required for the project and for creating a learning environment that was well lit and welcoming for pupils. The product supplied by Green Building Store was exemplary, along with its team’s service. The windows look stunning in the building, and their contribution to achieving the desired airtightness standards cannot be underestimated.” 

Our Windows Department Manager, Luke Gilman, commented on the project. “To be a part of such a significant project as one of Scotland’s first Passivhaus school buildings is something we are incredibly proud of.  

“The Annexe is beautiful. It blends in perfectly with its surroundings and the stunning cityscape of Edinburgh. As well as creating something of such beauty, it is good to know that our products have helped create a space which children will benefit from. Year after year, young pupils at this school will learn in a comfortable and healthy environment that will benefit and improve their learning. We hope to work on more schools in the future.” 





19th December 2023

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