The city council’s Finance and Resources Committee approved proposals to fund the rebuild of Currie High, Trinity Academy and Castlebrae High over the next five years. Plans to rebuild Wester Hailes Education Centre, Liberton and Balerno High will be brought forward later this year, subject to funding from the Scottish Government.
The new schools will be built to Passivhaus standard – highly insulated and essentially airtight buildings which don’t require central heating. A mechanical heat recovery system recirculates air through the building – providing a constant temperature all year round. Passivhaus buildings have reduced internal CO2 levels, improving well-being and concentration.
Council officers said the technology could save the authority up to £435,000 a year on heating bills. The new Castlebrae may not be built to Passivhaus standard as preliminary work has already taken place and the process could be delayed.
The council has already allocated £25 million for the rebuild programme – which will be added to an extra £78 million of investment agreed by the council committee on Thursday (11). The three further school rebuilds will proceed if the Scottish Government maintains the 50 per cent match-funding it gave previous projects.
Several Passivhaus schools have been built in England and the first commercial building to use the technology in Scotland was built in 2015, a nursery in Aberdeen.
The plans to utilise the Passivhaus technology have been welcomed by environmental campaigners.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “It is great news that Edinburgh Council is showing leadership in building schools to these ambitious energy efficient standards.
“Energy efficient construction makes sense from an economic and environmental point of view with initial investment recouped in both financial and carbon savings on heating once the building is being used.”
He added: “It’s important that the council leads by example in this way and does what it can to encourage more public projects and business developments to follow these impressive standards.
“Reducing the amount energy wasted from buildings is a key part of the action needed to cut our climate emissions.”
The Passivhaus Trust, which oversees the technology in the UK, also commended the council.
A spokeswoman said: “It’s an excellent decision, given the benefits to learning outcomes that result from the improved indoor environment of a Passivhaus building.
“Even temperatures all year round and low CO2 help the children stay alert and attentive throughout the day.”
Green Cllr Mary Campbell added: “This week’s landmark report from international bodies on climate change means that Passivhaus standard for buildings should be a necessity rather than a choice. Future generations won’t forgive us if we design buildings for 2080 which don’t stand the test of time.
“The case is most obvious in schools where the main building users have an obvious interest in having a habitable world in 60 years time. And, as the report makes clear, for schools, there is also an added advantage in reduced energy and maintenance costs, by getting standards right at the beginning.”
Cllr Alasdair Rankin, finance and resources convener, commented: “It is important when approving new developments – not just schools – that we consider improved environmental and energy performance. We are in the early stages of considering the adoption of the non-domestic Passivhaus certified standard for new buildings.”