Academy 360 (Pennywell) 100827

Project lead
Judit Kimpian, AEDAS R&D
Building type, sector and stage
Non-domestic new build, school, post-construction, in-use monitoring, Sunderland.

Academy, biomass, energy, ventilation, lighting , school

Timing of this summary
Two years after completion

Academy 360 (also known as Pennywell Academy) in Sunderland is a mixed-mode 10,172 m2 building designed around an internal courtyard, with a passive solar orientation and over-hanging eaves for solar shading. The two-storey steel frame building is clad in curtain walling with opaque and glazed panels, with brick plinth in places. It was completed in June 2009.

The building is ventilated by openable windows and local mechanical extract in each classroom. The original ventilation concept was based on cross-ventilation, but as free open areas were reduced, mechanical extract was introduced. 

LTHW heating primary services are supplied by a single 500 kW biomass boiler with buffer vessel, and two 600 kW gas back-up boilers. These were designed to serve both constant temperature and variable temperature heating circuits, with the constant temperature serving air handling units and a plate heat exchanger for the DHW storage vessel.

Electric lighting in most areas is controlled automatically by means of presence detectors and daylight sensing photocells. 

The building's design featured no substantial improvements on requirements of the 2006 Building Regulations, although the design was classified under BREEAM as ‘very good'. The energy performance calculations suggested that the building would emit 14.9 kgCO2/m2 per annum (an EPC rating of ‘C'). The actual performance of the building 2011/12 resulted in a DEC of ‘F' (146).


Initial performance

There appear to be some sub-optimal ventilation zoning  in the building, as the dining hall and the reception area are served by the same air handling unit.  These zones have vastly  different occupancy schedules  and densities.


The electric lighting systems exhibited severe default to ‘on' after occupation as the automatic lighting controls were too sensitive to movement and were very difficult for the building's managers to understand, operate and fine-tune.

 The external lighting remains on as a result of a policy to have security lights on, however there seems to be a single circuit for all lights preventing partial shut down. The current submetering system does not facilitate monitoring of this specific energy use.

Many of the lighting PIE sensors were set to long time delays on highly sensitive settings that were triggered by the 24 hour security. The facilities manager was given a remote control unit to enable the timings and sensitivity of each PIR unit to be adjusted.


These photographs were taken at night when the building was unoccupied. Note that external lighting is not considered in Part L calculations and is therefore a significant contributor to high electrical energy consumption.  

During the summer period the hot water system is connected to the main gas boilers. Despite  a significantly reduced daily hot water demand due to only a handful of staff in the building, the entire buffer tank still needs to be heated by the boilers to meet the small demand.

The biomass system has exhibited problems from the start. It was not working initially for a variety of technical reasons, from the wood chip augur becoming stuck, to a three-port valve bursting and the main pump springing a leak.