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Passive House School

In March 2012, Scoil Mhuire National School Moynalty became the first Passive House standard school in Ireland. It also has the honour of the lowest ever air-tightness rating for a non-domestic building in Ireland achieving a result of .54 (M3/hr) M3@50pa.

The Passive Schools Research and Demonstration Schools Project was established by DES in 2009 with Scoil Mhuire Moynalty and Powerscourt National School in Wicklow being chosen as the two test schools.

Scoil Mhuire is a four classroom rural school in Moynalty village in North Meath. The old National School was a 1938 mass concrete building with issues around heating, light, space, safety and parking. The new school however has classrooms of 70m2 each with independent access to an external teaching space and 10m of sliding wall storage. The school has a GP hall of 140m2, a wonderful library, large rooms for Support Teaching, separate staff room, kitchen and offices.

The building design is mindful of its function as a primary school and therefore has created a welcoming, open, bright learning environment, stimulating for the building users, both teachers and students alike reflecting the progressive pedagogical ethos of the school.

The school is controlled by an integrated BMS (building management system). The BMS controls temperature, air quality, CO2 levels, heat and light throughout the entire building. The BMS has an interactive touchscreen in the main entrance area which allows the pupils, staff and parents to monitor conditions and the energy use within the school.

The main features of the building include:
  • insulation to high specifications with external insulation to minimise thermal bridging
  • triple glazed windows ( automated with rain & wind sensors so that windows automatically close if it rains or if wind speed rises)
  • photovoltaic solar panels to assist in the provision of the schools electrical energy
  • the heating system is based on a biomass boiler providing renewable energy using wood pellets with a 100% carbon emissions reduction
  • MVHR (mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery) which extracts stale air and exchanges it for fresh air every hour
  • rainwater harvesting system used for flushing of toilets
  • CO2 sensors in all classrooms - if CO2 levels rise within the room the automated windows open for fresh air
  • Night cooling is available through the mechanical ventilation system if required.
  • digital individual temperature sensor in each classroom that allows the teacher to adjust the room temperature
  • lighting controls in each room which require the users to turn on the lights manually but then automatically controls the lights to save energy using daylight and absence detection technology
  • The upper Fakro windows & blinds in the classrooms and GP hall are all operated by remote control

In order to fully embrace and support the opportunities for learning with up to date technologies within the school it was agreed by all staff and the BOM to invest in iPads with all teachers having a personal iPad and the children having a class set of 30 iPads. After years of fundraising the BOM decided to install a 35m astro turf pitch which is a fantastic facility. Considerable investment from fundraising went towards equipment for PE, library, maths, science and the establishment of an Aistear area for infants. As a research project there will be on-going monitoring of the performance of the building incorporating feedback from the buildings users which will influence future policy decision on educational design in Ireland. Placing the pupil at the focal point of such considerations it is envisaged that this project will be viewed not only as a facility for education but also as an educational tool connecting pupils with their surroundings, creating an awareness of the environment and having a positive influence for future generations