Sixth Form Centre, St Teresa’s School, Effingham, IF_DO

Project details
Architect: IF_DO
Contractor: Net Zero Buildings
Town: Effingham, Guildford
Client: St Teresa’s School Effingham Trust

IF_DO has completed a new sixth form centre at St Teresa’s School, an independent girls’
school in Effingham.

The 657 m2 development accommodates:
• eight tutorial classrooms
• a study library
• a large common room
• offices for the Head of Sixth Form and Careers Advisor
• a state-of-the-art lecture theatre with a capacity of 120, which will be accessible to all year


The school is located in the green belt of Surrey Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Located in the north east corner of the campus, adjacent to woodland, the new Sixth Form Centre is the first phase of a 10-year masterplan for St Teresa’s, which aims not only to improve the school’s built fabric, but also to reconnect the primary teaching areas of the site to the natural landscape of the school grounds. Research demonstrates that views of trees and greenery improve cognition and mental health, including a reduction in stress and improved educational performance, which was an important driver for IF_DO.

IF_DO’s masterplan identified the need for a new facility with smaller classrooms to
accommodate a university-style teaching experience, enabling the Sixth Form to be a stepping stone to the next stage of the pupils’ educational development. Driven by a collegiate style, the plan envisages a network of colonnades and courtyards which stitch together disparate facilities on the campus. As the first phase is a new Sixth Form Quad with courtyards at the centre and colonnaded walkways integrated into the building.

Teaching facilities

The building comprises two blocks joined by a covered link: the teaching block - the larger of the two - contains the classrooms, offices, common room and study room; and a separate block houses the lecture theatre. A double-height ‘light box’ incorporates the main staircase, while a lower 8x8m square space features a large silver birch tree at its centre, which rises up through an opening in the sedum-planted roof.

On the western side of the building, two floors of classrooms (four on each) look directly out over the new Sixth Form Quad, with the covered external circulation providing solar shading to the south-facing glazing. The common room and reading room are located at the eastern end of the building, directly overlooking the adjacent woodland. At ground floor level, the common room faces onto a large south-facing patio, which gives views along the western edge of the old walled garden. The lecture theatre comprises of full-width window’s onto woodland and a scenic backdrop to the stage.


The building is largely constructed of prefabricated structural insulated panels (SIPs), with a lightweight steel frame and glulam beams to form the larger spans over the central canopy and lecture theatre. IF_DO worked in close collaboration with contractor Net Zero Buildings, a system builder specialising in low-energy, prefabricated classroom blocks, to ensure an efficient build.

A fabric-first approach was adopted, with high levels of insulation and a heat-recovery ventilation system throughout to minimise heat losses. A 320 m2 PV array covers the roofs of both blocks, which will generate sufficient electricity to power both the lighting and heating systems for the building, as well as feeding back to the rest of the school in summer months.

Student engagement

As an extension of the ongoing student engagement in the build, implemented by IF_DO working with the school, a digital screen in the main entrance will display the levels of power consumption and generation by the building, providing a tangible demonstration of energy usage to the pupils.