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A buff brick masonry, modular school building.

Melksham Oak Community School

School’s shape everyone.
We design and refurbish all types of schools and colleges to create inspiring, flexible and sustainable learning environments for the next generation.
Eco Homes
Creating Better Spaces for Learning

At Footprint Architects we recognise that good school design can have a positive impact on educational outcomes for children and young people. Successful school design can provide an uplifting learning environment, that can effectively support educational activities, whilst minimising operational burdens.


Recent research by the Royal Institute of British Architects RIBA has identified that a well designed primary school and secondary school classroom has been shown to explain a 16% increase in learning progress over a year… that’s equivalent to one years worth of pupil progress! Cost-effectiveness and a learning environment that has a positive impact upon pupils and staff can be mutually reinforcing.

Interior photo of a double height entrance space with a sign for 'Melksham oak sixth form'. A large staircase leads to the mezzanine level.
Digital concept sketch for a new School block
Leading the Way in Net Zero Carbon Schools

Our sustainable architects are committed to developing schools that are environmentally friendly and respond positively to the climate emergency. We believe that all new schools should be low energy, zero carbon, cheap to run and built using local, sustainable materials. Environmentally sustainable education design is good for both the planet and wellbeing.

Footprint Architects are striving to become a carbon zero architecture firm, offsetting our carbon footprint through various initiatives, and committing to planting 20 trees for every new school that we build.

Where we work

Whilst we are an RIBA chartered architecture firm based in Bournemouth, we can help to design and plan mainstream, private and SEN school’s throughout England, including Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, Surrey, the Midlands and London.

A Team photo of Footprint Architects sitting and standing around a wooden table in a wooden building
- 5 Simple Steps to Designing Your Eco Home
A Photo of a two storey, red brick school building and exterior courtyard
Our School Design Expertise

Footprint Architects are at the forefront of educational architectural design and have been creating inspirational school buildings for over a decade. Our specialist team of architects have in-depth knowledge and experience in developing high quality, innovative and sustainable school designs for all educational settings, including:


  • Early Years Foundation Studies

  • Nursery

  • Primary Schools

  • Secondary Schools

  • Colleges and Post-16

  • Further Education

  • Mainstream Schools

  • Independent Schools

  • Academies

  • Department for Education Schools

Special Educational Needs SEN Design Specialists

Our architects also specialise in providing sensitive Special Educational Needs and Disability SEND design services. Our SEN school buildings allows pupils to achieve their potential within a safe, secure and stimulating educational environment. We have worked on refurbishments, school expansions, new builds and have provided RIBA Client Advisor services for a range of special schools catering for a wide range of learning needs, including:


  • Alternative Provision

  • SEMH

  • PMLD

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder ASD

  • SRP

Photo of a black timber school extension with various sized glazed openings.
A photo of a new school building made of red brick with a picture window
Prefabricated Modular Classrooms or Bespoke School Buildings?

We understand that a one-size-fits all approach may not be right for every school, but that a bespoke design may not be feasible either. At Footprint Architects we will work closely with you to determine the most appropriate school design solution to meet your aspirations and budget. We have designed and offered technical advice on a variety of different types of school construction, including:


  • Modern Methods of Construction MMC

  • Offsite Manufacture

  • Prefabricated Classrooms

  • Modular School Buildings

  • Cross Laminated Timber CLT

  • Timber Frame

  • Steel Frame

  • Concrete Frame

  • Traditional Masonry

  • Net Zero Carbon School Buildings

6 Step Approach To Good School Design

1. Robust Feasibility Study

The most important design decisions are those made at the start of a school project. From trees to access, heritage to budget, every educational architecture project has its own unique opportunities and constraints. Through a considered feasibility study and masterplanning we can work to explore all of the different options and assess viability to reduce your risk and unlock the hidden potential.

A digital sketch of a school masterplan
A digital sketch showing diagrams of healthy classroom strategies
2. Passive Design

Implementing the simplest low energy, passive design decisions from the outset helps ensure that schools energy consumption and carbon emissions are reduced. Footprint Architects adopt a fabric-first approach to all new school buildings that we design.


Enhancing the building fabric and airtightness to LETI or Passivhaus standards is a simple but highly effective measure in reducing energy consumption and in achieving Net Zero Carbon in Use. This low-tech approach ensures that the schools we create are easy to operate, have low running costs, are simple to maintain, and are healthy and comfortable environments to learn in.

Our Approach to Passive School Design

  • Use of high levels of insulation to keep the heat in, enabling heating demand to be reduced by as much as 90%

  • Maximise airtightness and avoid thermal bridging to meet Passivhaus standards.

  • Position windows to maximise heating from the sun in the winter

  • Use thermal mass to store and slowly release heat in the winter

  • Use thermal mass to keep the heat out in the summer

  • Position the building to maximise shading and reduce the need for air conditioning or cooling in the summer

  • Orientate the long side of the building to face the south, with minimal east-west facing windows to reduce prevailing wind chill and excessive summer heat gains

  • Use fresh air to naturally ventilate a building

  • Utilise existing trees to provide natural shading in the summer months

3. Natural Daylighting

An abundance of natural daylight, with minimal glare, can create an engaging and healthy learning environment. The use of natural daylighting can reduce the reliance on artificial lighting, improve pupil wellbeing, reduce energy consumption and help to achieve net zero carbon in operation.


The use of large windows down to floor level and glazed external doors directly from the classroom spaces increases natural lighting, whilst animating the building at child height, creating spaces that allows pupils to explore and connect with the outside. We also recommend the use of roof lights to provide north light, increase natural ventilation and offer greater privacy for the classrooms over windows in the facade.

A photo of an innovative learning environment in a new school classroom. Children are interacting with learning devices an dobjects.
A photo of a new sixth form school building in melksham
4. Simple, Natural Ventilation

We advocate the providing simple, natural ventilation coupled with high ceilings to absorb stale air. School ventilation systems need to be simple to operate and quickly responsive to allow air quality in classrooms to be easily maintained.

5. Sense of Ownership

Engaging with pupils, teachers and end users at an early design stage ensures that needs and aspirations can be considered and integrated effectively within the scheme. This allows children a sense of ownership of their new school, prompting positive social interaction and increasing pupil engagement.


At Footprint Architects we run workshops with school’s at an early stage to discuss ideas and allow staff and pupils to feed into the design. We develop a digital model and use virtual reality headsets to enable pupils to walk through and experience their new classrooms before any work has started on site.

A photo of modern uses of vr by a school pupil showing engagememt with an architecture project
A photo of a multi functional classroom
6. Simplicity and Flexibility

Simplicity is one of the most important qualities of good design, and critical to ensuring that school buildings are good value and easy to use. The easier buildings are to procure, construct, manage, repair, operate and maintain, the more likely they are to operate efficiently and effectively. 


RIBA research has shown that providing a variety of flexible social and self-directed learning spaces, that enable students to breakout from the classroom, can have a positive impact on pupil engagement. Educational design lends itself to simple, regular and repeated layouts, offering schools flexibility for the future.

Our Schools

Interested in finding out more?

Get in touch and we’d be happy to discuss the first steps with you.
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