Wintringham Primary Academy
by dRMM Architects
Client Cambridgeshire County Council and Diamond Learning Partnership Trust
Awards RIBA East Award 2022, RIBA East Sustainability Award 2022 (sponsored by Michelmersh)
The school is one of the first pieces of social infrastructure to be built of the new settlement at Wintringham and will eventually sit at the heart of an emerging community. As such, this is a pioneering building, creating a bold intervention at the centre of the masterplan.
This building form may seem at first sight to be a wilful shape in a flat landscape, but the school has a clear front that will eventually relate to the town square and to other buildings identified in the masterplan. A series of more community-focused rooms are brought to this frontage, including the hall, a flexible room and other front-of-house spaces which can be offered for yoga and karate classes and public meetings.
The school is very much designed around learning and the child: every space has been considered as a place for learning. Extending the secure line to the plot boundary has liberated space for teaching to spill out from the classrooms at ground floor. Around the fringes of the school are a series of outside gardens, playgrounds and enclosed areas, thought of as extensions of the internal teaching spaces. Children’s lockers and boot racks have been arranged around the edges of the perimeter, saving internal space.
As part of the forest school ethos, at the heart of all this is a sheltered internal garden that is visible as soon as one enters, foregrounded by a green carpet that matches the landscape beyond precisely. This gives each classroom twin aspects onto planted external spaces and allows cross-ventilation.
A clear journey is established through the school around this internal garden, culminating in the final year six classroom, which is positioned over the entrance with a view across to the Parish Church at the heart of the market town of St Neots, to which Wintringham forms an extension.
The building impressed on a number of levels:
The school clearly results from close working between the Executive Head, Tracy Brydon, dRMM and the contractor to achieve something that is greater than the sum of the constraints involved in procuring a new school in the state sector.
The design demonstrates real imagination in maximising the utility of the space, with circulation spaces efficiently pressed into educational use. Intelligent use of materials and space maximise the extent and variety of teaching spaces. Detailing of classrooms are well-judged to support activities and natural materials reflect the teaching ethos. The framing arrangement and efficient use of cross-laminated timber wall and floor panels has provided the best teaching spaces for the available budget.
The measured energy consumption of this building is better than predicted by a significant margin, to situate it well beyond the RIBA 2030 benchmark. The project is also the best performer for whole-life carbon considerations, and has exceeded the RIBA 2030 benchmark. The building material considerations are exemplified by the use of engineered timber for most structural elements, thereby using timber where it truly matters. Furthermore, the project exemplifies consideration and application of research findings, with particular attention paid to biophilic design principles, and the enhancement of attention in educational environments with the use of timber. The building’s siting as a trigger project has also served to enhance the biodiversity of the surrounding settlement currently being developed (170% net increase). Overall, the clear distinctions made in these assessments present this project as the worthy winner of this year’s RIBA East Sustainability Award.
Contractor Morgan Sindall
Structural Engineers Engenuiti / Peter Dann Consulting Engineers
Masterplan Developer Urban+Civic
Services Engineer Roger Parker Associates
Cost Consultants Morgan Sindall / Faithful & Gould
BREEAM Assessor Stroma
Planning Consultant Turley
Landscape Design Bradley Murphy Design
CLT Supplier KLH UK
Internal area 3,615 m2