Woodlands Day Nursery and Forest School, Staffordshire University

A building for the next generation, this net zero carbon nursery set at the edge of woodlands provides spaces for children to explore, play, and connect with nature.

Woodlands Day Nursery and Forest School viewed from the garden.

Key information


Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios


Staffordshire University



Year of Completion




The single-storey learning centre in Stoke-on-Trent has been designed to be engaging at child height, with low windows, recessed seating, and external benches. It also contains spaces for trainee teachers and social workers, a forest school, and an outreach service. Working alongside architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, we provided MEP Engineering and collaboratively developed the carbon strategies to create a building that is net zero carbon in both operation and construction.

The design of the project avoids the need for mechanical cooling, minimising energy consumption. The nursery’s large open doors allow as much airflow as possible in summer, but in winter a separate lobbied entrance minimises heat loss. The external walkway acts as a solar shade in summer and when a lower temperature is required, for example at nap time, the buried earth ducts couple with the ground to provide chilled air. The shaded glazing and roof lights provide good daylight in the play areas, with darker cosy areas for sleeping.

The building is heated by air source heat pumps and underfloor heating throughout, with rooftop solar power providing local electricity generation. Any excess generation is fed back into the University’s network and used on campus.

"We based the building fabric targets on Passivhaus standards, however the operation of the building meant that the doors to the play area would be open most of the year. This led us to a natural ventilation strategy. As a building for the next generation, it is a fitting place for Staffordshire University to start on their net zero carbon journey.” 

Head and shoulders portrait of man against a black background

Director, MEP Engineering