25th November 2022

Houlton School wins AJ Design of the Year Award

Houlton Secondary School, a new 6FE school with full 6th Form at the heart of the growing Houlton community, wins best “Refurbishment” for the conversion of the historic Radio Station, and the highly coveted “Design of the Year” at the prestigious Architects’ Journal Architecture Awards.  


“Aside from the complexity of converting a listed industrial shell into a teaching facility fit for purpose in terms of daylighting, ventilation and acoustics, the design team’s key priority from the outset was getting the environmental aspects right in what was an all but uninsulated envelope. 

To start with, intensive energy modelling was undertaken to LETI guidance, resulting in a careful, complex upgrade of the external envelope to increase insulation levels and airtightness. With the new blocks designed to almost Passivhaus standards, the whole school now meets the energy performance requirements of the Department for Education’s standard School Output Specification.  

While the architects worked with building service and energy consultants, including Etude, Passivhaus and Hoare Lea, this is a project where you feel the architect really owned the sustainability strategy for the building – and understood the calculations! It shows how a retrofit can intelligently breathe new life into even the most unpromising structures, so that they perform environmentally and look good aesthetically, shifting the perception of a building so that it becomes more than the sum of its parts.”  

Wilson, R, 23 November 2022, ‘1920s radio building retrofitted as secondary school awarded AJ Design of the Year’ Architects’ Journal 


vHH Associate Niamh Cronin commented “We are delighted to have won this award! It is a testament to the collaborative nature of the project from inception to completion, the talent of the entire Design Team, and our close working relationship with Morgan Sindall throughout the delivery process. Urban&Civic set clear and ambitious social aspirations from the outset, working closely with the School operator, and committed to the high sustainability targets that have been key to the success of the project.  The design continually pushed for excellence, and the project is a worthy example of how we can deliver an exceptional education environment and low carbon buildings on a tight budget”


For more about the design of Houlton School check out the project page, and for those interested in the construction process checkout Houlton School onsite