Montgomery Primary School in Exeter is to be zero carbon with energy usage around a tenth of that of an equivalent school.

Electricity will be generated on site by photovoltaic solar panels. While the Passivhaus design approach is popular in mainland Europe, this will be the first school to follow the principles in the UK.

Germany and Austria have some 25 Passivhaus schools while the Flemish region of Belgium has put in place a school building programme in which every school is to be Passivhaus certified.

Passivhaus requires buildings to have extremely low energy usage whilst providing ‘excellent comfort conditions in both winter and summer’.

The school will be super insulated, draft-proof and feature controlled ventilation to keep temperatures healthy and comfortable.

The ambitious project is expected to meet not only current new building requirements but those 70 years from now.

Sustainable construction materials will be used and the school will include landscaped educational resources including a SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems) pond and wetland area, wildflower meadow, tree walk, and “tranquillity court” and a horticultural area.

The school and attached nursery will cater for 420 pupils when it opens in August 2011.

A spokesman for NPS Exeter, the company brought in to design the low-carbon school, said the firm had originally planned a typical school replacing the gas boiler with biomass and buying electricity via a green tariff.

He said: “We concluded this would be unsustainable and without value.”

David Gibbs

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