Currie Community High School

Overview of project:

Currie Community High School is set to become one of the first Passivhaus Secondary schools in Scotland, setting the standard for energy consumption across school estates across the country.  

Passivhaus is a rigorous energy standard which reduces the amount of energy needed for heating by up to 90%. It also lowers the total amount of energy used by around 70% and minimises greenhouse gas emissions.

The new school building will use super insulation, fresh air, natural daylight and the power of the sun to create a high performing building that supports wellbeing and provides the right environment for quality learning and teaching all year round.

Developed with teachers, pupils and members of the local school community, the design brief for the new school recognises that as well as the building itself, the activities and behaviours of the pupils, teaching staff and the wider community will contribute to reducing the school’s emissions.

As a result, through its design, the new school will promote environmental awareness, connections with the natural world, outdoor learning, biodiversity and global citizenship.  It will achieve this by providing access to the outdoors from ground floor classrooms, and including school and community growing areas, outdoor classrooms, active travel routes, sensory gardens and wildlife areas in the school grounds along with sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDs).   

The new school building and its grounds reflects Currie High School’s continued commitment to sustainability and environmental action. The school is also a long-standing achiever of the Eco Schools Green Flag.

Why is Passivhaus so important?

Passivhaus delivers a fabric first approach to reduce energy usage. This means that a building is designed and constructed to have low energy consumption from the start, with offsetting used to mitigate against unavoidable emissions by removing carbon from the atmosphere though things like planting trees or other carbon capture methods.

It is considered the most economic and efficient way for buildings to achieve the net zero target. Passivhaus can also provide learning and teaching opportunities and, by building the new Currie Community High School to Passivhaus standards, City of Edinburgh Council hopes to raise awareness among future generations of environmental issues and the measures that can be taken to reduce emissions. 

Strategies for designing to the Passivhaus standard are:

  • Super-insulation by providing a highly insulated external envelope to reduce the loss of heat through walls, roof and floor
    • Free of thermal bridges – through carefully considered construction and detailing to reduce the loss of heat through ‘thermal bridges’ such as junctions or fixings
    • Very low air-leakage by preventing heated air leaking out of the building in an uncontrolled way
    • Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery through providing a controlled supply of pre-heated fresh air
    • Passive solar with solar shading by making use of the warmth from the sun without causing spaces to overheat in hot weather.

To achieve Passivhaus certification, the school will need to demonstrate that high criteria for energy, heating and/or cooling, airtightness and overheating values can be achieved.

With Passivhaus certification, the new school will support Edinburgh’s aim of net zero emissions by 2030, provide a high- quality learning and teaching environment. It builds on Currie Community High School’s sustainability and environmental achievements. 

The Council’s Business Plan sets out the principle that all ‘Future Schools will be constructed to Passivhaus standard.’  Edinburgh’s Maybury Primary School, which will open in August 2023 will be one of the first Passivhaus primary schools in Scotland.  Liberton High School and other school’s planned as part of the Local Development Plan will all also be Passivhaus. 

Timeline and next steps:

  • New school building to be opened in 2024

Key stats:

  • One of the first Passivhaus secondary school in Scotland
  • The new school will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 70 – 80%, and the energy needed for heating by 90%, compared to existing school buildings
  • The Council has committed to ensuring all new schools built in the future will be constructed to Passivhaus standard

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