Sandal Magna Primary School

Sandal Magna sets the standard for inspiring, low-energy, and unique learning environments. Designed as one of the UK’s most carbon efficient schools, the new building uses passive design principles and modern methods of construction, whilst taking bold steps towards the future of education design.

Client: Wakefield Council
Construction Value: £5.25m
Completion: 2010
Location: Wakefield

2011 RIBA National Award
2011 RIBA Award Northern Network: Gold Award
2011 RIBA Award Northern Network: Project of the Year (White Rose Award)
2011 RIBA Award Northern Network: Sustainability Award
2011 British Construction Industry Award, Best Public Building under £5m (shortlisted)
2011 Wood Awards (shortlisted)
2011 Brick Awards (shortlisted)
100 Projects UK CLT

Education Business

Architects’ Journal

Architecture Today

Eco Building Magazine

Detail Green

The Architectural Review

C3 My School, My City

My school, my town

A microcosm of surrounding Sandal, the school gives local children a ‘town’ of their very own – somewhere to look after, learn from and belong to. Complete with town hall, bell tower, library, nursery and allotments, it turns familiar landmarks into an uplifting stage set for learning and play.

In surrounding Sandal, the quiet back lanes between the red brick terraces become the playground for children’s imaginations. The school design replicates this relationship with ‘streets for kids’: easily supervised outdoor rooms where all classes and age groups can mix in the hustle and bustle of playtime.

Quiet back lanes between houses used for play
Lanes replicated between the school buildings
Green, Seen

Sandal Magna wanted an ambitious school building that encourages outdoor learning and green thinking. Our design promotes everyday awareness of sustainability by transforming the whole building into a learning tool.

The school’s internal organs are exposed for the children’s curiosity and delight. Rainwater harvesting pipes are transparent so that recycling can be seen, and the ceilings are a lattice of shiny sprinkler channels and spongy acoustic cushions, so that young minds can see how things go together and work.

Our passive design methods enable Sandal Magna to reduce its energy needs, consuming 70% less energy than a typical primary school.

To prevent overheating we orientated classrooms north, whilst red brick chimneys – familiar to the local area – use the breeze to draw fresh air in and stale air out. A borehole heat pump connected to solar panels heats the school, and rainwater is collected to flush toilets and irrigate the green roof.

“Hardly a day goes by without a new revelation from this exciting building: All the effort has produced a learning environment that has achieved and surpassed our wants and needs”

Julia Simpson, Headteacher
Unique yet familar

It is our careful rethinking of Wakefield’s character that has gained Sandal Magna most admiration. Neither copy-cat nor shiny alien from afar, our design takes clues (and bricks!) from the former school and nearby homes to give an enigmatic and unique but also wonderfully familiar new place.

Red brick chimneys, ‘garden sheds’, a new bell tower and angular roofs tell of local industrial heritage. A rich mix of natural materials and cosy spots like niched window seats provide the precious, tactile places to which people are drawn again and again.

Each classroom opens directly outdoors where allotment gardens bring the natural world alive. With its collaged façades like garden sheds, a little of the character and comfort of home resides at school.


Photos by Mark Hadden