Maximising value in educational buildings

Case study: Saint John Henry Newman Catholic School in Stevenage

He holds the world record for claiming more Formula One pole positions and podium finishes than any other driver – but even Lewis Hamilton had to go to school, once. 

The Mercedes driver and seven times World Championship winner is perhaps the most famous alumni of Saint John Henry Newman Catholic School in Stevenage.

It may not be quite as glamorous as the F1 circuit, but the school itself is going through its own headline-grabbing £17 million upgrade of facilities, funded through the Department for Education Phase 2 Priority School Building Programme.

Saint John Henry Newman Catholic School

Delivered by main contractor Kier. This includes extensive landscaping and the construction of a new teaching space.

Designed by architectural practice Jestico + Whiles the two new blocks are being delivered over two phases, with the first completed in the summer of 2022. 

The contractor is currently in the process of delivering the second two-storey block which is scheduled for completion at the end of 2023. 

Combined the space will total more than 55,000sq ft and provide teaching space, administrative facilities, a new dining area and the main hall.

Having successfully supported the first phase of the programme, Acorn Aluminium has been appointed by Kier to support the second phase of delivery, including the installation of 337mof high-performing solar control aluminium windows and doors.

Our approach

Glass is being used in the project to fulfil two key requirements; performance, including advanced levels of energy efficiency and solar control; and a second design element through the application of opaque screens.

We met this requirement through a combination of solar control glass achieving a G-value of 0.37 u-value of 1.6w/m2K.  The second element,  design, was met through the use of an opaque white Vanceva interlayer combined in high-performance heat strengthened laminated units.

These were housed in the energy-efficient SPW600 system from Senior Architectural systems and SPW501 doors.

The windows assume a key role in defining the appearance of the new blocks. At 2.2m high and 3.6m wide, they consist of a large-fixed panel three opening vents and a louvre.

We completed the first phase of the project in April 2022 and will return to site in March 2023 to fulfil the second phase of the project.

“We were appointed on a design manufacture and fit basis. At 2.2m high and 3.6m wide, these are some really big windows which used a lot of laminate glass, so that’s been a lot of weight in transport and on-site. 

“The effort that’s gone into that from the entire team is, however, warranted by the result. It’s a very impressive modern building, which successfully balances the requirement for natural light, with solar control and effective ventilation.”

Paul Stevens, Managing Director, Acorn Aluminium

St John Henry Newman School

Product overview Senior Architectural Systems SPW600 aluminium commercial window system

The Senior SPW600 is a highly versatile 75mm window system, while it’s also available in the SPW600e enhanced thermal option, which uses additional thermal inserts on top of the latest polyamide thermal breaking technologies used across the range. Accommodating glass units of up to 56mm, this combines to create a highly cost-effective commercial window capable of achieving a BFRC A Rating. 

  • Energy efficient three chamber 75mm system using Polyamide thermal breaking technologies to deliver an enhanced level of thermal performance
  • Available in top and side hung casement options including inward opening and tilt-and-turn options
  • Achieves a BFRC A Rating
  • U-values as low as 1.3W/m2
  • Enhanced security Secured by Design compliant option

Product overview Senior Architectural Systems SPW501 aluminium commercial door 

In addition to the SF52, Acorn Aluminium also manufactured also used Senior’s SPW501 commercial aluminium door system in the entrance design to the building, maximising the flow of natural light to create a welcoming and open space. 

The high-performance, thermally broken polyamide aluminium framing system, is ideal for high pedestrian uses and applications, and is available in a standard and narrower 58mm clip and flush mullion, offering additional design options. 

It’s also available in a range of configurations, including standard pivot and anti-finger trap doors.

Saint John Henry Newman School


  • End Client: Saint John Henry Newman Catholic School in Stevenage
  • Completed April 2022 first phase; the second phase late 2023 
  • Commercial partners: architects, Jestico + Whiles. Main contractor, Kier, Senior Architectural systems, Saint Gobain
  • Heat strengthened high-performance laminated glass units combined with Opaque White Vanceva glass interlayers to achieve a u-value of 1.6W/m2k and G-value of 0.37.

Closing thoughts

“Educational projects create a series of sometimes competing demands to maximise natural day light, while preventing over-heating through solar gain. There’s also an underlying requirement for effective ventilation and energy efficiency. 

“The aluminium windows and doors supplied by us into Saint John Henry Newman School achieve this by combining an advanced solar control coating, with a high performance and thermally efficient outer pane.

“Background ventilation is guaranteed through the louvre system included in each window with additional ventilation provided through opening vents.” 

Paul Stevens, Commercial and Managing Director, Acorn Aluminium. 

Find out more about window and door specifications in schools and educational buildings

Project profile: Prince Albert High School
  • End Client: Department of Education/ Prince Albert Community Trust
  • Completed Summer 2021
  • Commercial partners: architects AHR. Main contractor Galliford Try. Glass Saint Gobain
  • Four storey superblock accommodating 32 traditional classrooms and 27 specialist learning spaces
  • Casement windows in Senior Architectural Systems SPW600 commercial aluminium window system
  • SF52 and SF62 aluminium curtain walling designed manufactured and installed by Acorn Aluminium
Find out more
Project profile: Northstowe Secondary College
  • End Client: Cambridgeshire County Council
  • Project: Northstowe Campus including Northstowe Secondary School, Special Educational Needs (SEN) School and Energy Centre
  • Curtain walling in Senior Architectural Systems SF52 curtain walling system and 180 windows in Metal Technology 5-35 Hi+ Casement. Plus Metal Technology P50 Louvre
  • Key requirement: Natural light and effective ventilation, achieved using SunGuard SuperNeutral (SN) 70/35 from Guardian combined with the P50 Louvre from Metal Technology.
Find out more


For more information, please contact:

Paul Stevens, Commercial and Managing Director, Acorn Aluminium

t. 0115 9282166


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