Plans have been revealed for an innovative new building for St Mary’s Catholic Voluntary Academy in Derby.

St Mary’s would be the UK’s first biophilic school as part of a pilot scheme for the Department for Education.

Biophilia is an approach that focuses on connecting those inside a building with nature and increasing biodiversity through design.

The aim is for the new building to be net zero carbon in operation – which means that the amount of carbon emissions added is no more than the amount taken away.

St Mary’s would consist of a primary school and nursery and would be single storey, made up of a series of pavilions arranged along a central canopy.

In the design, each age group – early years, infants and juniors – has a practical shared learning resource space. In addition, there is an entrance building featuring the hall, a chapel and communal areas.

The school would be largely timber built and insulated to a high level. It will also be naturally ventilated with photo voltaic solar panels and heating will be via air source heat pumps. Roofs will be green wildflower seeded to maximise biodiversity and local ecology.

Tilbury Douglas, a leading UK building, infrastructure, engineering and fitout company, has been appointed as the main contractor for this project. Tilbury Douglas will be holding a public consultation event in June ahead of a planning application for the new building being submitted to Derby City Council.

St Mary’s original building on Broadway, Derby, was destroyed by fire in October 2020 and the school has been based at St James House on Mansfield Road, since April 2021.

Amanda Greaves, Executive Headteacher at St Mary’s, said: “We are delighted to finally be able to share the wonderful news relating to our proposed new school. We would like to thank our parents and carers for their unwavering patience and understanding in supporting us, and we look forward to this new and exciting phase in the development of our new school.”

Simon Butler, Regional Managing Director for Tilbury Douglas, said: “Care and attention has been given to ensure that the best possible learning environments are afforded for the pupils and teachers, with excellent standards of daylight, air quality, comfort and wellbeing. This is supported by a new biophilic approach, focusing on landscaping and connecting building users with outside. The building will have full height windows to provide views of the landscape for pupils and staff.”

Sean McClafferty, Chief Executive of the St Ralph Sherwin Catholic Multi Academy Trust, said: “We are delighted for the community of St Mary’s that plans for their new building are moving forward.

“Caring for our environment is at the heart of our Trust vision and we are thrilled that one of our schools is part of this pilot scheme for the DfE, which is all about increasing biodiversity and sustainability, something we are working on with all 25 of the schools in our Trust family.”

The public consultation event is being held at Saint Benedict Catholic Voluntary Academy, on Duffield Road, on Wednesday June 8th between 3.30pm and 7pm.