Boroughmuir High School

Edinburgh, UK

Located on a site in Edinburgh’s Fountainbridge, the new, award winning Boroughmuir High School accommodates up to 1,165 pupils.

Situated in the western part of the city centre, the school is in the heart of the Fountain Quay regeneration area, and is bounded by the Union Canal, Gibson Terrace and Dundee Street. The historically significant site has a long industrial history, and has previously been home to both brewing and manufacturing businesses. The area had been vacant for a number of years before plans were announced to build a new school and housing for the local community.

Buro Happold was commissioned to deliver a number of services for the new school, which aspired to create exceptional teaching facilities within a bustling city centre location.

Image: Buro Happold


The school’s location in a busy site presented particular challenges in terms of noise, air quality and over shadowing. The design team needed to deliver innovative architectural and engineering solutions to achieve the desired exemplar environment for pupils and their teachers.

A key challenge for our fire engineering team was developing a fire strategy for the large, open plan central atrium. We needed to work closely with the school’s management team to ensure the safety of the students within the building.

Image: Buro Happold


To ensure Boroughmuir High School encouraged learning while combating the urban surroundings, we designed the indoor climate to exceed good practice for thermal comfort in a naturally ventilated building. Heat and electricity are now generated on site via a gas fired Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit, supplemented by high efficiency boilers and photovoltaic panels. Energy demand has been minimised by ensuring high levels of natural daylight and ventilation, while heat loss was limited by optimising the building envelope to reduce energy wastage.

Maximising the potential of the constrained site, the school includes a rooftop playing area and garden area above the sports hall, which can be accessed from upper levels in the building. The light open spaces are conducive to study, while the building’s excellent environmental credentials further cement its success.

Our team devised a complex fire strategy that worked alongside the open plan central atrium. We carefully planned escape strategies in line with the architectural development to compliment the open plan nature of the building and optimise the means of escape between rooms, communal areas and stair cores.

We took a level-headed approach to the BREEAM assessment of the building, ensuring the credits that offered greatest value for money were targeted. The building achieved an EPC B+ rating, discounting the contribution of renewal energy sources, and BREEAM ‘Very Good’.

Image: Buro Happold


The new school provides high quality, purpose-built teaching and communal spaces which respond to modern educational demands. The success of Boroughmuir’s design earned the team two Edinburgh Architectural Association awards in 2018, ‘Building of the Year’ and ‘Large Project’, demonstrating the quality of the learning environment for pupils and teachers.

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