Skip to content
CGI of proposed new Thornhill primary school passivhaus facility to be on site in September

Thornhill Primary School Expansion

Houghton Regis, Central Bedfordshire

Client: Central Bedfordshire Council
Project Value: £6.5m
Brief: New build school facility enabling the school to expand from a 1 FE to a 3 FE
Sustainability Initiatives: Passivhaus Scheme utilising Cross Laminated Timber Frame

“I just wanted to drop you a line to say thanks for your hard work on the Thornhill scheme; it has been very refreshing to work with designers like yourselves on this project. It really is an exciting project for us internally and will hopefully set a precedent for aiming for higher energy and sustainability standards on CBC capital projects.” – Mark Rees, Project Manager of Central Bedfordshire Council

This project is expanding Thornhill Primary from a 1-form entry school to a 3-form entry school with a new building designed to the Passivhaus Standard and refurbishment / remodelling works to the existing building to enable both new and old to be holistically brought together. The school is located on the northern edge of an existing residential area, and is a key focal point for the residential led masterplan Houghton Regis North (HRN1) which is rapidly expanding the town. Our designs separate the year groups between the two buildings yet present the school as a single facility through a carefully designed external landscape and connections between the two buildings. These internal and external teaching spaces have then been designed to support alternative methods of learning and offer a platform for evening/ summer events for the school community.

The new school building is arranged around a central playground, overlooked by circulation spaces and a new access deck. This deck wraps the entire two storey section of the building, providing valuable breakout space for smaller group learning, connecting teaching with the outside and the surrounding context. At the heart of the school is a double height entrance atrium and split-level library, adjacent to the new sports/ dining hall, centralising the facilities, promoting active learning within a centralised hub. The works to the existing school are focused on lessening the impact of circulation on the teaching spaces through the relocation of the library and resources areas to adjoin the main hall and the development of this area as an activity hub with improved ancillary and increased nursery facilities.

The project places sustainability at the forefront of the design to create a healthy learning environment and is a perfect example of our one company approach as the new building’s implementation of Passivhaus and incorporation of sustainable construction materials was achieved through the joint efforts of our architectural team and the Keegans quantity surveying team. Passivhaus was selected as this would ensure the new facility’s quality of construction, provide significant benefits to the whole life cycle cost, reduce its financial running costs and improve thermal comfort and indoor air quality.

The principles of circular economy were followed within the design, with materials selected for their low embodied carbon, and both materials and buildings considered for their possible future uses and recyclability. For this reason, CLT (Cross-Laminated Timber) was selected as the primary structural material for the building.


  • Winner: Pagabo Awards: Best project delivering sustainability outcomes