Whitecross High School, Hereford

Client: Herefordshire Council
Contract Value: £15m
Completion Date: June 2006
Form of Contract: PFI
Architect: Haverstock Associates


  • BCSE Best of British Schools Award for the Test of Time, 2012
  • BCSE Industry Award for Greening the School Community, 2008
  • The National Green Apple Award for Environmental Best Practice & Sustainable Development, 2007
  • Local Authority Building Control National Award for the Best Sustainable Innovation, 2007

A new 900 student High School on a green field site. The project was the design and build of a new school with full community use and exceptionally low energy consumption. As a specialist sports college, the new school included a high standard of sporting facilities including all-weather pitch, multi use games area, fitness suite, oversized four court sports hall and small gymnasium. Other facilities included conference and meeting rooms and flexible teaching spaces including open areas within the library.

A new secondary school raised issues around the design standards which are often at different extremes. There is a requirement that teaching spaces must not get cold in winter or too hot in summer, while maintaining adequate ventilation. Daylight is to be maximised at the back of large square classrooms. Meeting these requirements while also addressing the sustainability requirements and low energy demand set by the Council were the key objectives of Stepnell and our design team.

The primary solution to overcome many aspects of the teaching environment and sustainability requirements was the adoption of a heavy mass structure, coupled with a forced ventilation system that can heat the school in winter and purge the building in the summer. This made it possible to meet stringent design requirements and achieved them with minimal energy input. The built solution included precast concrete floors and roof, sedum roof covering to two thirds of the school, a very airtight construction and high levels of insulation.

The approach to the project was based on a detailed risk assessment of the whole project with the main evaluation being the quality of the teaching environment. Knowing that quality was key to the success of the project Stepnell adopted the Construction Lean Improvement Plan (CLIP) to reinforce the stringent requirements through the design and construction phases. Stepnell also retained the management of the design process so that design decisions were informed from client knowledge, cost parameters, programme implications and buildability. With Stepnell being involved in all areas of the project, costs were also tightly controlled. With clear guidance from the outset and the involvement of CLIP major changes and variations were avoided and subcontract packages let on known elements.

“Probably one of the best secondary schools in the country”

Colin Ashford, Principle Consultant. BRE


The educational attainment at Whitecross increased from 46% of students achieving five or more grades at A* to C at GCSE to 90% in the first five years of occupation.

Post-occupancy energy reduction at Whitecross Hereford High School

Using our expertise in post-occupancy monitoring and evaluation and by working closely with staff and students, we have significantly cut energy usage at a Hereford high school. Our team helped bring about a 22 per cent reduction in electricity consumption; a 16 per cent cut in gas usage; a 25 per cent fall in water used and an overall reduction of 14 per cent in carbon emissions at the school.