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Harris Academy, Sutton

by Architype

Client London Borough of Sutton

Awards RIBA London Award 2022, RIBA London Sustainability Award 2022 (sponsored by Michelmersh) and RIBA National Award 2022 (sponsored by Forterra)

© Jack Hobhouse

Harris Academy Sutton is a prototype for 21st Century schools, being the UK’s first Passivhaus certified secondary school, and the largest Passivhaus school in the country.  Powered only by a single domestic-scale boiler, the school sets an impressive sustainability benchmark, easily achieving RIBA 2030 targets for operational carbon emissions and being enabled for net-zero carbon. 

Situated at the gateway to a world-leading medical cancer research and treatment site, Sutton Council required a new secondary school that would meet their aspirational goals for both sustainability and high quality education. The programme for the scale and quality of building required to achieve Passivhaus certification was challenging and required rigorous attention to detail and air-tightness. What has been achieved is a flexible community asset fit for the future.

© Jack Hobhouse

The building sits on a compact, sloped site, encircled by mature, protected trees. The form of the school deftly mediates this complex terrain and connects the space between the suburban neighbourhood to the north and impending research complex to be constructed to the south.

Externally, copper and anodised aluminium were chosen to reflect the scientific aspirations of the site, with coded messages from Marie Curie and Albert Einstein displayed on the school gates to inspire the scientists of tomorrow. This playfully contrasts with the vertical larch panels that clad the larger mass of the school. This sustainable choice of materials nods to nature and the gentle environmental impact of the Passivhaus school. Inside, the cross laminated timber structure is celebrated and predominant across ceilings and walls. Classrooms are designed for flexibility, with partitions that allow the space to double or shrink in size, dependent on needs.

© Jack Hobhouse

Teachers observe that students are more alert, even at the end of long days owing to the biophilic design elements in the school's design which incorporate high quality, natural materials with extensive daylighting, comfortable temperatures and low CO2 levels. The school also noted that there is an evident sense of pride among students, with university-style independent learning zones and meeting spaces that support the older students’ transition to further education. 

© Jack Hobhouse

Architype are congratulated on their arrangement of the 4-storey design that sits seamlessly into its landscape, avoiding the sense of a large or imposing building. Particular praise is given to the project team's maintained focus on the sustainability criteria throughout the design and construction stages, producing a demanding yet achievable benchmark for future education projects.

Internal area: 10,625.00 m²

Contractor: Willmott Dixon

Structural Engineers: Price and Myers 

Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant  Synergy 

Landscape Architects  Churchman Thornhill Finch 

Services Engineer  BDP 

Educational Consultant  Lloyd Wilson Partnership 

Planning Consultant  Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners 

CLT Provider KLH UK 

WARM Low Energy Building Practice  Passivhaus Certifiers 

© Architype
© Architype
© Architype
© Architype
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