St Luke's CE Primary School

Wolverhampton City Council and All Saints & Blakenhall Community Development Partnership

Project Outline

St Luke’s, a pioneering two-form entry primary school, was designed to achieve BREEAM ‘Excellent’, and was the first primary school in the UK to secure this rating. Through extensive user consultation and developing an understanding of the user's requirements, we developed a plan based around two shared hubs that support and enhance the school’s approach to creative shared teaching.

A key architectural generator for the project was to provide a building that was highly energy efficient: to have minimal heating loads, minimal requirement for artificial lighting whilst maintaining a comfortable working environment that is an inspiration and an educational tool for all. Careful attention has been given to the shape, form and section of the building, to maximise daylight, control solar gain and enable natural ventilation to all main spaces. The construction is an all timber structure, insulated with 300–400mm thick recycled newspaper insulation in a ‘breathing construction’. Externally the building is clad with UK grown Douglas Fir, and the roof is finished with cedar shingles. The building is heated with a biomass boiler linked to underfloor heating. A BMS controls ventilation and passive night-time cooling.

On Site / May ‘06
Completion / Jun. ’09
Gross Internal Floor Area
2,600 sqm
Construction Type
Timber Frame
Total / £6,200,000

Our new school has an abundance of space, more than we could ever have imagined. The timber and the natural touches of the building have a calming influence on everyone. Children and staff are keen to work and love their new learning environment.

Alison Grennan, Head Teacher

2010 BCSE Sustainable School of the Year

2010 RIBA Sorrell Foundation Schools Award

A conceptual generator of 'contrast' was adopted early in the project to guide design, following lengthy research into past and current teaching methodologies. A child's perception of the nature of 'things' from an early age, is fundamentally a view of 'extremes': things and experiences are seen as 'black or white'. A child has little notion of 'grey' or degrees of difference. It is in fact the 'degrees of difference' that a primary teacher is empowering the child to discover through experience, play and learning. A child's uniform notions of the world are 'ordered' and formal in their polar simplicity, whereas adult notions are informed from a wider experiential and historic context, resulting in an increasingly 'blurred' degree of categorisation with greater fluidity: chaotic.

A child's set of contrasts would include: good/bad; black/white; right/wrong; soft/hard; rough/smooth; light/dark; warm/cold; in/out and so on. The architectural challenge was to respond to the notion of contrasts to create a building that stimulates the natural curiosity of each child and gives teachers a dynamic teaching environment.

Maintaining visual links with the surrounding environment helps blur the perceived internal, external boundaries and locate oneself within the building. A language of transparency was sought to express the visual links from side to side and front to back and throughout the building with particular attention to the visual links with the green spaces immediately adjacent.


Timber staircase and finishes offers a smooth, warm touch exuding a sense of safety and comfort.


Natural non toxic materials; recycled barrier matting and natural linseed and jute linoleum flooring create non-toxic and a healthy atmosphere for the children


Architype started work on the project in the summer of 2006 following several days consultation in the school. Architype met with all the staff (including teachers, lunch time supervisors, cleaners and specialist staff, such as, the home school link officer and some of the children) to develop a greater understanding of how St Luke’s CE Primary operates and feels, how the ethos of the school is expressed throughout the school and the aspects of St Luke’s CE Primary which are unique and special. A key aspect of Architype’s approach is to discover, through consultation, the character and personality of an organisation and to then explore through a conceptual design approach ways of expressing this.

Of course the children forwarded the most creative and innovative ideas, featuring an 'in-school chocolate factory', and a 'ghost-train roller-coaster connecting the classrooms'.

St Luke’s new Primary school is a truly uplifting and inspiring environment, where staff, parents and children enjoy coming to school.

Alison Grennan, Head Teacher

Learning from Post-Occupancy Evaluation

St Luke’s is an example of a well-executed primary school that has had good performance outcomes and offers valuable learning for the delivery team. The occupants are pleased with the environmental conditions and overall they have a very high level of satisfaction with the building. The electric usage is higher than hoped, which is typical of new-build primary schools. The users have been very engaged in the energy management, which has assisted them in taking ownership of the building and driving down energy use.

There were problems aligning the meter readings taken from the BMS and the mains readings, as the electric and biomass readings were significantly different between the two datasets. The heating was operating during the holiday weeks, causing heat energy spikes, when the school was empty. The heat energy use ranks in the best 25% of primary schools, and better than CIBSE best practice.

The classroom daylight and electric lighting strategies were effective, successfully enabling the children to work with minimal – if any – artificial light. Using three-four lighting zones gave each classroom the flexibility to have on only the lights they needed, and teachers and pupils were mentored through our soft landings approach to learn to habitually switch lights off. The classrooms oriented north/south worked best, as the whiteboard is in the darkest natural lighting zone.

2010 RegenWM Outstanding Place of the Decade

2010 RIBA Regional Award

Architype’s approach is to integrate sustainability from first principles, rather than add it later. We describe this as ‘Eco-minimalism’. The plan and the section of St. Luke’s are carefully integrated together to moderate the environment efficiently to reduce energy consumption, achieve good daylighting, control solar gain and achieve natural ventilation in every room. It was the first primary school in Britain to achieve an ‘Excellent’ BREEAM rating.

Specific features

  • 2 storey prefabricated timber construction using 300mm thick I-beam walls and 400mm thick I-beam roofs to reduce cold bridging, insulated with Warmcell recycled newspaper, in an airtight, moisture permeable fabric.
  • Untreated UK-grown Douglas Fir timber cladding, and a Cedar shingle roof.
  • Triple glazed windows.
  • Biomass heating system, and a BMS controlled passive ventilation system with night time cooling.
  • High levels of natural light, controlled natural ventilation and a healthy internal environment.

Illustrating our construction methodology; cutaway section with transparent protective cover.

Typical Weekday

Project Partners

Structural Engineer
Price & Myers
Main Contractor
Thomas Vale Construction
Services Engineer
Ernest Griffiths
Quantity Surveyor
Smith Thomas Consult
Landscape Architects
Coe Design
Water & Energy Consultant
Elemental Solutions


  • BCSE Sustainable School of the Year 2010
  • RIBA Sorrell Foundation Schools Award 2010
  • RegenWM Outstanding Place of the Decade 2010
  • RIBA Regional Award 2010
  • Winner of the Project of the Year under £10m
  • Environmental Project of the Year for St Luke's School at the Quality in Construction Awards 2010
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