King’s School Canterbury – Kingsdown House

Refurbishment and new-build boarding accommodation at historic co-educational independent school. 

Within a beautiful setting near Canterbury Cathedral, a Scheduled Ancient Monument, this Grade II-listed former primary school, designed by William Butterfield in 1847, has been sensitively restored and refurbished and linked to a new boarding house for girls. The building houses a common room, a quiet study area and a kitchen. 

Skelly & Couch devised sustainable M&E design solutions to match the phased delivery of the project. Phase 1 was the refurbishment of the Butterfield Building and Master’s House to create boarding accommodation for 30 pupils, including a common room, quiet study area and kitchen. Phase 2 was the construction of a new building for older pupils.

The inefficient heating and lighting systems in the existing building were completely replaced with new, much more efficient systems to significantly reduce the carbon emissions here. New glazing and insulation were provided to bring the building’s thermal standards in line with modern requirements.

The new building was carefully designed to include the optimum combination of window area to provide daylight and to allow natural ventilation wherever possible, whilst minimising the heat loss from the building. Passive designs that did not rely on intensive mechanical systems were utilised throughout and systems within the building were considered carefully to ensure that they used low energy in operation. The structure was designed to provide the optimum combination of thermal mass and lightweight construction, through the use of a recyclable steel structure combined with precast concrete planks and a concrete screed to increase the thermal capacity of the floors and remove the propensity to overheat and the need for cooling.

Components were selected to reduce the building’s environmental impact. For instance, drainage was selected to be in HDPE, which is considered more benign to the environment than PVC or cast iron. The lighting has low energy LED sources throughout. Lighting control is provided to all student areas so that the lights automatically turn off, on an 'absence control' basis so that the lights do not generally turn on unless they are called for.

All spaces are controlled so that the heating system turns off automatically whenever it is not needed, and there are central controls that allow the school to turn off sections of the heating and the hot water systems when the students are not in occupation, retaining the heating to the staff areas throughout.

The project achieved a BREEAM 'Very Good' environmental rating without the use of obtrusive 'green' add-ons that could detract from the historic setting.

Kingsdown House won no fewer than three 2019 Canterbury Society Design Awards: Overall Winner; New Building in a Conservation Area; and best Refurbishment. The judges said: "It is an exemplary and intelligent project on all fronts: the elegant and sensitive refurbishment of historic buildings, the scale and form of the new boarding wing, quality detailing throughout, the transparent connections between new and old, and the exquisite landscaping. It is our clear overall winner".

The project also won a 2018 Civic Trust AABC Conservation Commendation and was shortlisted for a 2017 RIBA South East Award.