Harris Academy Sutton

London Borough of Sutton

Project Outline

The pioneering Harris Academy Sutton is the UK’s first Passivhaus secondary school and the largest Passivhaus school in the UK.

The new building forms the cornerstone of the London Cancer Hub, featuring world-class research and treatment facilities. The school has a special focus on the science disciplines, aiming to inspire scientists of the future and building links with employment partners to enhance student experience and support the transition to further education with university-style learning.

Completion / Jul. ’19
Gross Internal Floor Area
10625 sqm
Construction Type
Timber Frame
Total / £40,000,000

Architype led a committed design team that combined education and Passivhaus design expertise. This team continued successfully through the design development and construction stages, to deliver a very high performing building.

Adam Whiteley, Senior Project Manager, London Borough of Sutton


Natural materials including timber and copper act as structural and decorative touches on the impressive 10,625m2 space, evoking its leafy suburban setting. Historic trees have been retained and celebrated as part of the ecology-focused landscaping. The trees add maturity to the new school, contributing to the site’s biodiversity and creating a buffer between the building and its residential neighbours. The natural palette is enhanced with grey bricks for a striking yet sensitive vista.

Inside, Architype worked closely with educationalists to tailor the facility to the students’ needs, prioritising flexible spaces for the school’s growth. Classrooms and teaching accommodation span over four storeys, including 11 labs to suit the STEM school’s science-focused aspirations. A flexible demonstration lab will accommodate up to 60 students to encourage participation in extra-curricular research and national events such as British Science Week.

Value for students and community

Accommodating up to 1,275 students from age 11-18, Architype has developed a wayfinding strategy including connecting lightwells and coloured stairs to help pupils navigate the new space. Copper has been used as a visual separation for the areas of the building which are multi-use, serving the public as well as students. For example, the stunning 715 m2 sports hall is clad almost entirely with copper and internally finished with exposed timber. The facility will be used by students as well as local residents after hours, contributing to the healthy living values of the wider site.

Classrooms are light and inspiring with optimised spatial orientation, the result of extensive daylight, noise, transport and ecology surveys conducted by Architype. Cross laminated timber roofs reflect the natural harmony of the building, with non-toxic materials providing exemplary air quality and environmental credentials. The central spine of the school has alternating wings and halls to provide an optimised massing. This dynamic layout maximises the site’s usable external areas with terraced seating and social courtyards, further adding to the knowledge sharing and ‘university campus’ feel of the scheme.

Extensive public and authority consultation has helped to form the local infrastructure plans and improvements to encourage staff, students and parents to take sustainable routes to the school, including public transport, walking and cycling. 185 cycle parking spaces have been provided as well as shower and locker facilities.

Contractor collaboration

Architype provided lead consultancy, architectural and principal designer services, working closely alongside contractor Willmott Dixon. The project demonstrated a ‘one-team ethos’ from start to finish, collaborating with the client, contractor and sub-contractors to ensure that ambitious environmental standards were met. Architype’s expertise in Passivhaus, alongside Willmott Dixons’ flexibility in construction has helped to deliver a super low-energy building, with optimum internal conditions which hope to save as much as 90% on its heating bills compared to standard school buildings. Each room is served with a very small domestic scale radiator and light sensors to help students and teachers know how to use the room’s minimal light and heating most efficiently. The school has achieved an exemplary air leakage score of 0.3ACH, and is in the process of gaining Passivhaus certification.

Project Partners

Lead consultant, architects, principal desiger and Passivhaus designer
Willmott Dixon
Education consultants
Lloyd Wilson Partnership
Services Engineer
Structural Engineer
Price & Myers
Landscape Architect
Churchman Thornhill Finch
Quantity Surveyor
Planning Consultant
Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners
CLT Supplier
Passivhaus Certifiers
WARM Low Energy Building Practice
Jack Hobhouse


  • RIBA London Award 2022
  • RIBA London Sustainability Award 2022
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