Building of the week: Ashmount Primary and Bowlers Nursery.
Set in my old stomping ground of Islington, this is a primary school for the future. It’s the result of some ambitious ideas from the local council, the rather visionary Crouch Hill Park carbon-negative development. They had a patch of north London brown-field land that needed regenerating, and they decided to develop the land with zero waste during demolition and construction. Any new buildings on the site would be zero carbon when operating, and there would be no parking on site.
The redevelopment includes a youth centre housed in an old substation, an ecology centre, parklands, and a new primary school and nursery. Because it’s set in a park, the new school was designed around its settings, keeping the public realm in mind. Sight-lines through the park were considered, and the school layout was apparently inspired by a treehouse.
The building itself makes the best possible use of natural light and ventilation. It is highly insulated, and uses a combined heat and power (CHP) system to provide electricity and heating, and also to illuminate the park at night. Excess heat is piped to nearby apartments, making the school a net energy exporter.
Because the site has no parking, other than disabled or service vehicles, priority has been given to bikes. The school has cycle storage and showers to encourage staff to cycle to work. Waste shower water is collected, along with rainwater from the roof, and is used to flush toilets and water the plants.
In keeping with the on-site ecology centre, there are various measures to support biodiversity. The building has green roofs, and incorporates bird and bat boxes into the design, so that it will house more than schoolchildren.
Ashmount Primary cost £13 million, and will open in September 2012. It is the first school building to get an ‘outstanding’ from BREEAM, the UK’s leading green building certification. Let’s hope it’s the first of many.