Passivhaus Affiliate

St Sophias EnerPHit aspirations pave way for UK schools

St. Sophia’s Primary School prepares for a radical retrofit upgrade, aiming to be the first school in the UK to achieve EnerPHit certification, designed by PHT members Hamson Barron Smith.

 St Sophia's Primary School, Image Credit: Hamson Barron Smith

Originally built in the late 1950s, St Sophia’s Primary School has grown into a thriving educational hub for children aged from 4 -12 years, but a gradual decline in the building fabric now poses challenges for the ongoing comfortability and efficiency of the school. Hamson Barron Smith has set out to upgrade the existing design by aiming for EnerPHit certification, ensuring the building continues to facilitate the vibrant school community long term, without eradicating the existing structure.


Sustainability underpins everything we do – whether it’s our approach to design and consultancy, or the way we run our business. We work tirelessly with our ambitious clients who strive not only for excellence in architectural design, but to provide truly healthy, comfortable and energy-efficient buildings.

Sarah Lewis, Associate Director at Hamson Barron Smith

A key driver of the retrofit proposal for client East Ayrshire Council, is to provide healthy and comfortable indoor environments for pupils, whilst reducing unnecessary energy usage. According to Hamson Barron Smith, nearly 80% of the energy consumed in the existing school is used for space heating. Using Passivhaus Planning Package (PHPP) software, key heat losses in the building fabric were highlighted in the existing roof, ventilation, external walls, and windows, contributing to poor overall building performance.

Factors such as poor airtightness, thermal bridges, inadequate insulation, and ventilation meant that the school used large amounts of energy in winter to keep pupils and staff warm. However, during the summer months, the building would overheat, making the classrooms and facilities uncomfortable.


Key stats 

Units: 1

Project value: £2.8M

Project stage: Planning approved

Start on site: April 2022


St Sophia's Primary School site plan, Image credit: Spaces for People East Ayrshire 


This innovative project will ensure that our young learners will have the opportunity to learn in an environment that matches the hopes and aspirations of the school community.

Councillor Fiona Campbell, Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning


It was determined that the school would significantly benefit from key upgrades without needing to irradicate the existing structure, ensuring effective ventilation, temperature regulation, and high indoor air quality to improve comfort, concentration levels and overall wellbeing of pupils and staff. Not only this, but the school would benefit financially.

Key EnerPHit upgrades include installing triple glazed windows with external wall insulation, as well as increasing airtightness to prevent drafts and moisture issues. Shading is planned as part of modifications to the external structure, not only to prevent overheating in summer months but also to provide sheltered outdoor areas for play despite weather conditions. The upgrade also offers an opportunity to strategically reconfigure the interior plan to create more productive and inclusive working spaces.

As part of East Ayrshire Council's carbon reduction strategy, St. Sophia’s Primary School's EnerPHit upgrade is leading the way for educational buildings in the UK. Due on site in April 2022, we look forward to seeing how the project progresses.


This very successful school, which sits right at the heart of the local community, will benefit from a significant programme of works. I am delighted that the design process is now underway and that our primary consultant, architects Hamson Barron Smith, are bringing their expertise to this project. Together with our team from Facilities and Property Management, they will ensure that the school is sustainable, flexible and economical to run, now and into the future.

Councillor Fiona Campbell, Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning


Further information

St. Sophia's Primary School

East Ayrshire Council: St Sophia’s refurbishment to use innovative building practices - 3 February 2021

Passivhaus for Educational Buildings Campaign

Passivhaus Schools and Educational Buildings

Passivhaus Retrofit

31st March 2021

Never miss UK Passivhaus news by joining the Passivhaus Trust mailing list Follow us on twitter @PassivhausTrust

< Back To News