Edinburgh plans first Passivhaus-designed high school in Scotland



Innovative plans to make the new Currie Community High School one of the most energy efficient high schools in Scotland have been unveiled by the City of Edinburgh Council.

The campus will be the first Passivhaus-designed high school in the country, setting 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 carbon emissions.

At the heart of the new school plans are five core elements: education, inclusion, outdoor learning and sustainability, digital learning and community access. The school will have a series of learning zones for pupils with breakout areas which include:

  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) over 3 levels with dual-teaching classrooms, science labs, technician areas and a learning plaza
  • Languages and Humanities with dual-teaching classrooms, learning plaza and a debating chamber
  • Expressive Arts with music rooms, a recording studio, art studios including a kiln room, dance studios, drama studio and stage
  • Health and Wellbeing with a gym hall, games hall, fitness suite and swimming pool, food technology and hospitality
  • Integrated Support with wellbeing hub, support for learning classroom, a sensory room and a sensory garden

There is a strong emphasis on outdoor learning with the creation of a special terrace on the second floor providing all of the learning zones with immediate access to external teaching spaces. This focus will shape the curriculum on offer and ensure these outdoor spaces promote sustainability and link lifelong learning to the surrounding grounds of the school and community.  

Health and wellbeing also feature prominently in the designs with the creation of a dedicated wellbeing hub and separate wellness centre to support pupils. The hub will be based in the integrated support zone and is a dedicated room in a quiet location which can be used as part of a planned alternative/flexible timetable to help young people learn in a variety of settings. The wellness centre will be in the community and sports side of the building and will provide a space for counselling and activities to support improved mental health.

A series of engagement events have been held with staff, pupils from both the high school and cluster primary schools, parents and the local community in the past two years as the plans have been developed. As a result of this early community engagement the new building will offer the community daytime, evening and weekend access to an intergenerational community hub. Visitors can drop in to the library space in the foyer, access meeting rooms and digital services, visit the café, keep healthy at the gym and pool or enjoy a walk around the grounds.

The new school is one of the projects included in the first phase of the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate Investment Programme. It will be designed in line with the guiding principles of the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate Strategy and is expected to be completed in 2024.

Councillor Ian Perry, Education, children and families convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “These are really exciting times for the Currie community as these pioneering designs really are the blueprint for the schools of the future. There are so many innovative elements to the plans with energy efficiency at its centre. This will make the new campus the first high school in Scotland to meet Passivhaus standards and supports Edinburgh’s aim of net zero emissions by 2030.  

“The new Currie Community High School will provide a first-class learning environment and an exciting, inspirational and creative hub for the whole community. This is an exciting period for education in the Capital with recent new builds and projects under construction demonstrating our ambitious new school building programme with £500m investment planned over the next 10 years.”

Councillor Alison Dickie, education, children and families vice convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “As a council we are taking every opportunity to innovatively build schools for the future that are fit for 21st Century learning and the plans for the new Currie Community High School really do tick all the boxes. I’m really pleased to see that inclusion and health and wellbeing form key parts of the designs with the creation of the two hubs. It’s so important the new schools support greater accessibility and inclusion for all our young people especially with the immense challenges they have faced in the past year.     

“There’s been plenty of positive engagement with parents, pupils and the local community over the past two years which has helped shape these plans and given everyone a real sense of ownership of the new school. We’ll make sure this continues as these exciting designs are taken forward with the new school expected to open its doors in 2024.”

Images courtesy of Edinburgh-based practice Architype



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