Value Award 2023

Welshpool Church in Wales Primary School – Architype, Powys County Council, Pave Aways Building Contractors, WSP


Category sponsored by 

The Welshpool Church in Wales Primary school is the first Passivhaus school in Powys, and the third Passivhaus school completed in Wales.

Offering exceptional performance of more than 80% better than typical new build primary schools, the new school also brings fantastic health, comfort and wellbeing benefits with excellent air quality, and generous natural light thanks to its Passivhaus design. Students benefit significantly from this enhanced environment, as well as local community members who use school spaces outside of teaching hours. Anecdotal evidence from teachers suggest that concentration amongst students has improved, and the head teacher noted how the building itself provides a practical learning resource for students: ‘We’re able to provide real-life examples for sustainability by showing them solar panels and it’s benefits and waste management. The hallway space is often for used for activities while the classrooms are airy, provide natural sunlight and reflect upon a focused environment since there’s limited external noise- great acoustics.’

Thanks to its energy efficient design, annual bills are reduced by £60,000 (based on average energy consumption of Powys schools), savings that can be directly reinvested in additional resources for students, such as equipment or additional staff members. Its high efficiency also contributes to its ecological credentials – the schools reduced energy demand means a reduction in annual operational carbon emissions. Combined with its low embodied carbon design, thanks to its timber frame and natural material palette, the school proves that whole life carbon can be vastly reduced with a combined commitment to sustainability targets.

Value was delivered through efficiency on site, and a culture of communication and coordination that avoided costly errors. A pre-fabricated timber frame meant enhanced productivity during the construction stage as well as minimal waste, and the high-quality construction means that day to day maintenance is significantly reduced. Its efficient insulation means that if a problem was to occur with the M&E system, the school would remain warm even in the depths of winter. 

It was also designed for cost efficiency, with the team taking lessons learnt from past Welsh Passivhaus schools to de-risk their approach. Had the main contractor not fallen into administration, the school would have been delivered for standard new build costs in line with the CEW 21st Century Schools Cost Review. The school design is elegant in its simplicity and can be easily replicated for local authorities looking to improve their education estates, and monitoring is informing Architype’s subsequent designs for Welsh Passivhaus schools, including Ysgol Gymraeg y Trallwng, a Passivhaus Primary School and a larger and more ambitious all-through Passivhaus school, Ysgol Bro Hyddgen.

The school’s performance at completion is exactly as predicted at design stage, with no performance gap – unlike a poor industry average of a 40% performance gap. Energy and indoor air quality performance is evidenced through monitoring which will be shared once the Building Performance Evaluation programme has been completed so that the whole industry can be upskilled.