Wintringham Primary Academy is a three-form entry primary school that uses cross laminated timber to create an inspiring learning environment, built to impressive sustainability standards.
Wintringham Primary Academy is a three-form entry primary school that uses cross laminated timber to create an inspiring learning environment, built to impressive sustainability standards. Prioritising wellbeing and adaptability through the creation of fluid, multiuse spaces, the design by dRMM has emphasised the social and environmental benefits of timber from start to finish.
The vision for a timber school emerged from the early collaboration between dRMM, masterplan developer Urban & Civic, main contractor Morgan Sindall Construction and the school headteacher Tracy Bryden. The design sought to provide a variety of outdoor learning experiences and flexible indoor spaces connected to nature.
With the building arranged as a ‘school-in-the-round’, two layers of stacked classrooms wrap around a central landscaped grove, allowing all classrooms to benefit from natural light and views from both aspects. Throughout the building, the CLT’s surface is left exposed, making the most of the biophilic and calming qualities of timber.
A slender timber roof oversails the courtyard with a generous canopy, providing classroom shading and weather protection outdoors. The curved roof follows the building’s contours and slopes gently upwards, providing double-height classrooms at its tallest point. The underside of the CLT roof slab is left exposed, with the wall head detail designed in such a way as to allow the roof to appear to pass from interior to exterior without break.
Externally, the school is clad in a rainscreen façade of glazed ceramic panels inspired by the seasonal colour variations found in woodlands. The gradually changing colour profiles serve as a wayfinding feature that helps navigation around school, reflected too in the colours of the classroom interiors.
Clusters of classrooms with shared support spaces are formed – with ‘soft spots’ in the CLT wall panels between classrooms allowing sections of walls to easily be added and removed, so internal spaces can adapt to the school’s growth and evolving curriculum. This flexibility minimises the risk of future building obsolescence and, together with the inclusion of outdoor, open plan and break out spaces, has allowed the academy to respond easily and effectively to changing COVID requirements.
Completed in 2020, the school serves as a focal point for the emerging community at Wintringham – a large urban extension to the Cambridgeshire town of St Neots. With a self-contained nursery, flexible learning spaces and facilities to share with the wider community, the school has helped to create a sense of place and identity for the growing area.
Using CLT for the superstructure not only helped the project to exceed the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge for embodied carbon for new schools but enabled it to be constructed within just 14 months – even during the disruption of the pandemic.