Riverside Primary School

A pioneering Passivhaus school for outdoor play and learning

Riverside school for Perth & Kinross Council with Hub East Central is the first Passivhaus primary school in Scotland. The building offers children a state-of-the-art facility, one that supports a healthy and innovative learning environment and prioritises connections to the outdoors. Designed to accommodate 462 pupils, 82 nursery pupils and 16 additional support needs pupils, the school was built in tandem on the site of the existing North Muirton Primary School.

The new school replaces the existing North Muirton Primary School and the Victorian era Balhousie Primary School, with both schools merging together to occupy the new school building. With the Passivhaus standard set as a key target, the team overcame multiple challenges to deliver a design that met the stringent technical performance requirements for the first time in Scotland, ultimately creating a school that is estimated to reduce energy costs by around 70%.

Architype’s inhouse Passivhaus designer team supported the client, design and construction teams in their Passivhaus journeys, presenting toolbox talks to ensure that Passivhaus detailing was implemented to meet energy demand goals, and that subcontractors were aware of the stringent quality and performance requirements for Passivhaus construction. At Riverside, before installation was rolled out across the whole building, a 1:1 scale window assembly was built and once approved by the onsite Passivhaus champion and designer, used as the example quality standard expectation for the whole build. Materials were sourced locally where possible to support local trades and suppliers, such as the critical airtightness membrane by Proctor Wraptite which is manufactured nearby in Blairgowrie.

Orientation and layout

The existing site is located in the middle of a c1970s garden style housing estate bounded by the River Tay to the east and north and the main Dunkeld Road to the west. Attention was given to how the school would sit within its residential setting - considering its connection with the surrounding estate and encouraging active travel to school.

A thoughtful landscape plan allows for pitches and outdoor learning spaces including an activity trail and secret garden. Optimised building orientation, with facades to north and south, takes advantage of natural lighting while controlling solar gains.

The layout enhances a unifying central breakout space with direct access to an external play area and classrooms orientated on a north and south axis to maximise natural daylight. Ground floor classrooms open directly to the playgrounds, creating an inspiring link between interior and exterior space to encourage outdoor learning. Intensive support provision learning spaces have their own self-contained department with an independent entrance and fully enclosed private external play area to allow a safe space for outdoor learning.


The materials were carefully chosen for their performance and to create a warm natural environment. Natural non-toxic materials such as linoleum, wood wool fibre acoustic panels, as well as natural timber finishes create a high-quality uplifting and calm environment that enhance wellbeing.

An inclusive and accessible learning environment is a key client priority and ensuring that all learners can access learning throughout life in a positive and supportive environment became the overarching design intention for the school.


As an exemplar highlighted in the Scottish based Construction Quality Improvement Collaborative (CQIC) launch, Riverside demonstrates the impact of genuine partnering in cultivating a culture of quality. The collaborative Passivhaus design optimisation and construction monitoring procedures developed by Architype with the project partners successfully achieved high quality across the whole site. As the first Passivhaus designed school in Scotland, this project will serve as a significant reference for all future Passivhaus schools and has offered invaluable experience and insight into the challenges of effective delivery of a high performing school within the Scottish market and environment. Most importantly, this school will support and enhance the experience of learners in a bright and healthy environment, while minimising maintenance and energy costs.

We are monitoring performance in use and currently, pro-rata energy consumption (EUI) is 56kWh/m2/annum, which is well below the target figure of 67kWh/m2/annum required for LEIP funding.

Project Partners

BakerHicks (MEP)
Goodson Associates (structural and civil) Atelier 10 (fire engineer)
Sandy Brown (acoustic consultant)
Kirk and Marsh (principal designer)
Rankin Fraser (landscape)
Robertson Construction Group


  • £19.9 million construction (and fees)


  • Steel frame


  • Shortlisted for the Learning Places Scotland Award: Innovation in Delivering a Sustainable Learning Space
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