From mining community to net zero: Staffordshire school leads the way


From mining community to net zero: Staffordshire school leads the way

The Hart School in Rugeley just completed a brand-new, incredibly efficient building with sustainable industry leaders, Net Zero Buildings. This is a huge investment for the community, as it provides more capacity for the expanding school in line with its journey to a net zero future.

The school is predicted to save an estimated £30 per m2 annually as a result of the new building’s A+ energy efficiency rating. This will result in potential energy savings of up to £11,500 this winter.

Pioneering change from mining roots

The Hart School is guiding Rugeley into a new era by committing to its net zero in operation expansion. The school is located less than two miles from Lea Hall Colliery, a former mine, which produced more than one million tonnes of coal year between 1970 and 1980.

This project, which was part of the Creative Education Trust and finished in October 2022, is a part of a bigger plan to promote net zero school buildings across the nation.

“We’ve had net zero aspirations for a long time,” comments Jon Ward, director of estates and facilities, Creative Education Trust. “But when the local authority asked us to take on additional children at The Hart School, these aspirations became more urgent, as we needed to continue to provide an excellent and sustainable learning environment for the children of Rugeley.”

Developing net zero

To replace the single-story building from the 1960s, Net Zero Buildings created a sustainable solution that provided the Trust with desperately needed teaching spaces.

The school is now able to accommodate 147 more students than it could three years ago because of the 385m2 expansion. It includes a new teaching facility with five classrooms, as well as male, female and accessible restrooms. As the building is attached to an existing building, staff and students can move easily between the old and new facilities.

The new structure has an A+ energy efficiency rating thanks to a combination of green technologies, which includes:

  • On the exterior, the design options include a roof covered in photovoltaic (PV) panels and super-insulated, airtight timber-faced panels.
  • To produce a sustainable yet comfortable internal environment, the building combines mechanical heat recovery ventilation and sensor-controlled low-energy lighting, while maximising natural daylight.

With an air permeability value of 1.73m3/(h.m2) at 50 Pa – much lower than the average value of 5 for a structure like this – this combination of lean, green and clean technologies produces a very sustainable facility.

The Creative Education Trust chose to work with Net Zero Buildings as it was able to provide a highly sustainable solution that represented the school’s net zero carbon aspirations. As such, in operation, the school is projected to produce more electricity than it consumes, lowering operating expenses and assisting in carbon offsetting, which is more crucial now than ever given the state of the economy.

A flexible solution

The Trust decided to use offsite construction methods because they’re highly sustainable, cutting down on carbon emissions, waste generated during construction and energy use.

Offsite construction also allowed the new school building to be completed up to nine months sooner than it would have with traditional construction. Additionally, it made construction more cost-effective, with net zero structures finishing the job on time and on budget.

The surroundings did present some challenges due to uneven ground levels in the southeast corner of the site increasing the difficulty of install. In order to address this issue, we first levelled slopes to ensure that the addition could be built easily. The building’s design was also altered because the shifting levels prevented the southeast corner being used for solar gain, as any photovoltaic panels would’ve been shaded. Additionally, we increased the size of the windows in this area of the building to account for any shade that might reduce the quantity of natural sunlight that enters the building.

“It’s been wonderful to work so closely with Net Zero Buildings as it developed the Hart School designs. We understood the challenges associated with achieving a net zero environment on the existing school site, but we were keen to push further to ensure our investment was a sustainable one, and Net Zero Buildings enabled us to do this,”

Continues Jon Ward.

“We were extremely keen to work with Net Zero Buildings as it’s part of an educational framework, and we knew working with them meant lead times could be accelerated.

“The project was completed in the spirit of partnership, and it was all achieved ahead of expectation, so we could accommodate the additional children as soon as possible.

“Net Zero Buildings has delivered excellent teaching spaces that are sustainable for the children of Rugeley, and the work we’ve achieved together has enabled us to better understand options for further construction projects. We’re very much looking forward to working with Net Zero Buildings in the future,”

concludes Jon Ward.

To find out more about starting your net zero journey, get in touch or call us on 01638 596 155.

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