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Alfreton Park Community Special School, Derbyshire

  • Client:
    Derbyshire County Council
  • Architect:
    CLTH
  • Value:

    £13.2m


Set within 10 acres of wooded parkland, Alfreton Park Community Special School is a brand-new Special Educational Needs School which connects flexible educational learning spaces for children with complex mobility and educational needs with the natural environment of the surrounding parkland. 

Many of the children spend significant amounts of time in healthcare institutions and so a key delivery for this project was to provide accommodation that is inclusive, adaptable, non-institutional and allows the children to develop natural behavioural and social skills for enjoyable and effective learning, as well as develop connections with the natural world beyond the classroom. The school benefits from excellent, indirect natural daylighting throughout, a bespoke approach to sustainability with a strong focus on energy and water conservation measures, controllable and flexible learning spaces.

The low-lying, contextual building consists of a steel frame with a metal deck roof with the shallow pitched roofs constructed from a composite cladding deck with concealed gutters and low-profile roof lights allowing for natural daylighting throughout. The deep overhang of the roof creates a canopy over external teaching space and helps reduce unwanted solar gains.

Internally, most teaching spaces are naturally ventilated by incorporating a cross ventilation strategy with openable windows (and external door) on one side, and high-level motorised widows on the other side. MVHR units are also provided which are generally used for wintertime cold draught free ventilation. Mechanical cooling is only provided on a limited localised “cool box cooling” basis. As there is a natural ventilation strategy with no active cooling in the majority of spaces, high external temperatures are likely to impact and influence internal thermal comfort conditions.

 Internally, most teaching spaces are naturally ventilated by incorporating a cross ventilation strategy with openable windows (and external door) on one side, and high-level motorised widows on the other side. MVHR units are also provided which are generally used for wintertime cold draught free ventilation. Mechanical cooling is only provided on a limited localised “cool box cooling” basis. As there is a natural ventilation strategy with no active cooling in the majority of spaces, high external temperatures are likely to impact and influence internal thermal comfort conditions.

Actual real-life in-use occupation data was collected by the school and when reviewed showed that whilst internal temperatures during the summer of 2022 were consistent typically fluctuating between 20 oC to 24.5 oC they only went above 24.5 oC in July, which coincided with external temperatures approaching or exceeding 40oC. Even then, during these periods, the internal temperatures recorded never reached or exceeded 30 oC and for the majority of the month the internal temperatures were significantly lower than the external temperature.

 It was also noted that whilst internal temperatures increased during periods of sustained high external temperatures they only increased slowly, and it took several days for them to increase. Likewise, when the external temperatures started to fall, so did the internal temperatures but only relatively slowly. Conversely, when the external temperature began to approach single figures in September, the internal temperature held steady in the mid to low 20 oC’s. This thermal inertia perhaps suggests that the building is thermally stable and the data obtained does suggest that the natural ventilation strategy was working well and the effects of solar gain were fairly limited. Had it not been the case, we would have expected higher internal temperatures compared with the external air temperature but the internal temperatures in the teaching spaces never exceeded 30oC despite there being several periods of prolonged hot weather, peaking at 41oC on one occasion.

In order to speed up a decrease in internal temperatures, following a drop in external temperature, we’re investigating the feasibility to enable the MVHR units in summer bypass mode earlier which will provide a faster rate of secure purge ventilation, which in turn will help cool the space and fabric down faster.