A primary school designed by White Design, lauded for its sustainability credentials, has been demolished just seven years after completion
Work started last week on flattening Dartington Primary School near Totnes in Devon following the failure of a rainwater harvesting system on its roof.
The council settled out of court after issuing proceedings against the school’s architect, White Design, and contractor Interserve, in which it claimed £7 million in damages arising from the problem.
One of the first zero-carbon schools in the UK, Dartington Primary opened in 2009, fitted with a system at roof level to harvest, store and filter water to supply toilet cisterns.
Soon afterwards, however, classrooms were affected by water ingress from the roof, and the council concluded that the buildings were beyond economic repair following a technical report.
The report found that the major cause of the ongoing water ingress was likely to be the result of the scheme’s design. It pointed to complexities within the rainwater harvesting system and concern about the materials specified for it.
According to parents, locally sourced sweet chestnut cladding on the roof buckled and warped, allowing rainwater to seep in. This meant that, instead of flowing into the rainwater harvesting cisterns, the water seeped into the building creating damp and mouldy walls.
Construction of a replacement building, designed by Atkins, is expected to begin in the new year, having gained planning permission in October. It will provide 315 primary places and a 30-place nursery school.
A council report on the replacement school said: ‘The building has a number of sustainable design and energy efficiency elements, meeting building regulations requirements.’
These include natural ventilation, natural lighting, lighting control sensors to minimise the use of artificial light and a canopy along the south elevation to reduce solar gain, but no rainwater harvesting system.
Craig White, director at White Design, said: ‘There was a claim that has now been settled. We are all bound by a confidentiality agreement, so that is about as much as I can say.’