St Luke’s CE Primary School, Wolverhampton – Winner of BCSE Sustainable School of the Year 2010


St Luke’s CE Primary School, Wolverhampton


Thomas Vale Construction

Project partners

Client – Wolverhampton City Council

Architect – Architype


Construction News 2010 – Winner of the Project of the year (under £10m) and Environmental Project of the Year award

RIBA 2010 Sorrell School’s Award

British Council for School Envrionments (BCSE) Sustainable School of the Year 2010

Civic Trust Award 2010

RIBA Award 2009

Highly Commended at the Wood Awards 2009


Completed in 2009 St Luke’s is a 2 form entry school with community facilities.  The building is designed to achieve a very high standard of sustainability, including very low energy consumption, sustainably sourced materials and a BREEAM Excellent rating. The project has had an ecological focus throughout the design process, maximizing the use of daylight, natural ventilation and thermal comfort.  The building is timber framed construction, utilizing timber cladding and roofing system.

The key sustainable features include:

  • Pre-fabricated timber frame construction
  • UK grown Douglas Fir and cedar timber
  • Triple glazed windows
  • Biomass heating and BMS controlled ventilation
  • Night time cooling
  • Natural paints, stains and floor finishes

The aims

  • To create a quality learning environment
  • Promote social improvements through the regeneration of Blakenhall
  • Reduce CO2 emissions and running costs
  • Have a minimal impact on the environment

The challenges

  • Meeting the strict air tightness requirements for the design to be effective
  • Working on a tight site
  • Integrating with the existing school staff and pupils

The solutions

Collaboratively working together to achieve the required air tightness through early engagement between designers, site management and sub contractors.

Regular meetings between school and construction team including regular supervised visits for pupils during the construction process.

The extensive and integrated use of timber is a fundamental part of the sustainability strategy, and certified timber is specified throughout. Timber is used in every aspect of the construction, including:

  • prefabricated timber frame panels (external and internal walls, intermediate floors, and roofs)
  • glulam columns and beams to create large span spaces
  • timber cladding to all external walls
  • cedar roof shingles
  • triple glazed timber windows
  • extensive use of exposed timber internally
  • hardwood external furniture

Specifically the following timber products are used:

  • 300mm Steico timber I-beams for external wall panels, 400mm Steico timber I-beams for intermediate floor and roof cassettes, fully filled with Warmcell recycled cellulose insulation. I beams are used to reduce thermal bridging softwood timber glulams
  • solid timber internal studwork
  • Paneline & Panelvent timber sheathing to external walls and roofs
  • untreated UK grown Douglas Fir cladding, fixed on untreated softwood battens
  • Western Red Cedar shingles, Blue Label, Five X, US origin, fire treated
  • timber windows by Swedish Timber Products & Menck Fenster
  • wall and ceiling linings – birch faced ply, hit and miss softwood ceiling battens; joinery – oak stairs, beech handrails; birch faced ply furniture; ply dado; ply skirtings; ply cills and architraves

The use of timber is complemented by the specification of a range of other sustainable materials including linoleum and rubber flooring, recycled carpet, entrance matting made from recycled car tyres, and natural organic timber finishes.

The form of the building is carefully designed to reduce energy consumption by maximising natural daylighting and passive ventilation, and carefully controlling solar gain. Particular attention was given to reducing thermal bridging in the construction and to achieving excellent airtightness – with an air test result of 2.12 a/c / hour at 50pascals. Heating is by means of underfloor heating powered by a biomass woodchip boiler.

The building was designed through a dynamic process of user consultation which creatively engaged children, staff, parents, head teacher and governors in a series of design workshops. This led to a radical agenda and plan for the building in which a whole series of specialist rooms and corridors are organised into shared activity hub spaces around which the classrooms are grouped.

The results

  • The £6.2million new school building is seen as a flagship project, at the heart of the regeneration of Blakenhall, an inner city area close to Wolverhampton centre. A new neighbourhood centre, designed with the same extensive use of timber is commencing on site on an adjacent site in July 2011.
  • Significantly reduced CO2 emissions for the project
  • Improved education spaces for the children
  • Proved the benefits of air tight construction
  • Apprenticeships and jobs were provided for local people by working with local partners.

Learning points

  • The required processes to achieve an air tight design
  • The benefits of close integration between the construction team and the school users
  • Issues with procurement of windows from Germany, now looking to source locally

SWM comment

We are pleased to see that SWM member Thomas Vale Construction has led this exciting project and that they have been recognised for their achievements in sustainability. We hope that the school children are inspired by their school to be more sustainable at home and in the future.

Contact for more information

For further information contact Matt Wisdom at Thomas Vale Construction at, 01299 82777 or visit the Thomas Vale Construction website.