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Rosendale Primary School
London Borough of Lambeth
Kristina Roszynski
Synergy Consulting Engineers, Andrew Payne Interiors
AJ Retrofit Awards - Schools (2013)
FX Magazine (2014) Building (2013)

Gradual refurbishment of a Victorian primary school in south London is creating a great place for children to learn – and making massive energy savings.

Rosendale Primary School

Since 2011 we have been carrying out improvements, within a very tight budget, to the Grade II listed Rosendale Primary School in south London.

In the first three phases, four classrooms were remodelled, creating vastly improved conditions for both children and teachers, and existing toilets consolidated into a single unisex block.

There is now better circulation and surveillance, more storage, and children benefit from a safer, brighter and more spacious environment.

Our most recent work has consisted of simple, cost effective alterations and a playful extension to the Reception Building to accommodate an extra classroom from Autumn 2018. The 'beach-hut' extension provides additional washroom facilities to meet the needs of the enlarged capacity, featuring a free-flow layout in line with current early years teaching ideology. The stage-set pitched roof facade provides an engaging backdrop to the facing playground outside - complete with seaside-themed sandpit - and supports imaginative play.

Playful 'beach hut' extension to the Reception Building.

Our holistic and sensitive approach inspired the head and governors to ask us to prepare a long-term strategic plan for further improvements, such as reorganising the school buildings, improving the playground, and exploring how to accommodate additional pupil places. The masterplan is helping the school to make the right decisions and supports its funding applications.

"Cullinan’s consulted all those who would be using the space – teachers, children and parents ... by the end of the project, they became part of the school community. We were astonished at the results they produced in the time given and hope to continue working with them for many years to come."

Kate Atkins, Head of School, Rosendale Primary School


Rosendale Primary School was built in 1899. Unsympathetic, piecemeal interventions over the years had detracted from many of its positive original Victorian features.

We set out to rediscover the good environmental design of the original buildings. False ceilings were stripped away, allowing natural light to pour in from high-level windows. We restored the best of the original features, such as fireplaces, dado rails, teachers’ cupboards and wood flooring, making them relevant to a 21st century classroom but at the same time adding character to the building.

A classroom before and after refurbishment


Our designs for each phase of the refurbishment were tailored exactly to the school’s requirements. We began by building up a picture of a day in the life of the school: how teachers, pupils and parents moved about the buildings and used the spaces. We listened to them all.

The children told us what they liked and didn’t like – and they didn’t like the existing toilets. When we were remodelling the toilets during the second phase of refurbishment, they worked with an artist to create decorative wall-mounted ceramics for the communal handwashing area.


A pragmatic and sensible series of relatively small-scale – and low cost – interventions is underpinned by a longer-term strategic plan grounded in a comprehensive understanding of the school’s fabric.

Our starting point was to make better use of existing space and create better places for learning. Circulation has been improved and congestion avoided by moving cloakrooms closer to classrooms.

Budget constraints precluded replacing two south-facing glazed extensions that suffered from under-heating and over-heating and – in attempts to reduce glare – loss of natural daylight. We built a thermal model to determine where the rooms were failing and then found ways to remedy it. We adjusted the size and location of roof lights, optimising daylight and minimising glare, and replaced glazing with high-performance, solar-controlled glass.

Also during the first phase, we remodelled four classrooms. Although the classrooms are relatively small, we created a sense of place by adding a raised platform in the corner of the room to be used as a quiet space for reading or group work.

The classrooms have new floors, a work bench around the perimeter of the room, with storage below, new furniture and concealed services. We have installed new insulation and energy-efficient radiators and replaced fluorescent strip lighting with low energy fittings.

A. Place for Coats. B. Accessible resources storage. C. Clear space for 30 children. D. Storage wall and bench. E. Interactive whiteboard at child-friendly height. F. Quiet space for reading, small group work and one-to-one. G. Solar shading. H. High performance glazing. J. High level ventilation reinstated.

During the second phase, we replaced existing toilets with a new unisex block with individual locked cubicles and communal handwashing area.

Each phase has been implemented during the school holidays, so that the school has been able to stay open during term time.


Our approach to refurbishment has always been ‘fabric first’ to reduce energy use. The phases completed so far have resulted in a dramatic reduction – up to 50 per cent – in energy consumption.

Redesign of the location of roof lights in the two glazed extensions allows daylight to penetrate more deeply into the room plan, insulation of the roof reduces heat loss, and solar controlled glass mitigates heat gain. A new external timber pergola provides solar shading.

We have repaired existing sash windows so that they can be opened in classrooms and reinstated high-level openings in the halls to maximise natural ventilation. New heating pipework and energy-efficient radiators with controls, and presence sensor lighting have been installed.

Children and teachers have said that classrooms are now comfortable in both summer and winter.

Pupils are directly involved in making their school more environmentally sustainable. We are helping the school to measure and understand its CO2 emissions using the low carbon toolkit pioneered by The Atlas Project, developed by Cambridge University’s Programme for Sustainability Leadership. The school is able to calculate its carbon footprint and work out a plan for reducing it. Rosendale Primary School appears as a case study on the Atlas website.

By working with the existing fabric and re-using what was there as much as possible, we have reduced the embodied energy of the building works.