Filter Menu

Coltness High School, Wishaw

Coltness High School, Wishaw

A complete makeover in North Lanarkshire has created a fully updated high school and external spaces. The project combines refurbishment and new build to provide a remodelled school of 11,987m for 800 pupils and 85 staff.


Coltness School is located approximately 2km to the north east of Wishaw town centre and occupies a site of approximately 5.5 hectares. The school grounds are surrounded by housing to the south and west, and to the east and north by areas of mature woodland. The original school was built in the mid 1970’s and comprised three distinct sections consisting of a three–four storey central teaching block flanked to the southwest by a single storey dining/ kitchen block, and to the northwest by a one-two storey assembly/ music/ gym/ administration block. A new sports complex was built to the rear of the school (northeast) in the late 1990’s, around which time four hutted accommodation units were also erected on site.

The brief asked that the remodelled school deliver a safe, stimulating and challenging environment for all building users, and further; that the school provides educational facilities to support the community and enhance the surrounding environment.


Under the terms of the North Lanarkshire Council Schools and Centres 21 Programme Coltness school was identified as requiring renewal.

The requirement for renewal was driven by the following considerations:

Condition: School condition was poor with inadequate building fabric and poor suitability of the existing school buildings. 

Space: Significant over capacity existed in certain areas.

Use: It was vital to maximise the use of school buildings for lifelong learning and social and economic regeneration, and to suit the authority’s preference to increase the level of vocational learning across key schools in North Lanarkshire, so additional vocational learning spaces were to be included.


North Lanarkshire strategic analysis suggested a drop in pupil numbers during the period from 2008–2014. Although this did not occur, the authority’s view was that a higher level of vocational learning space was required across all its schools in order to increase access to practical training and skills. These spaces were to be fully renewed or newly created where required. ASN spaces were also to be added.

A further requirement in the brief called for high levels of renewable energy and for replacement of life expired parts of the building fabric.

New build vs refurbishment

The selection of refurbishment as the preferred approach for Coltness School was driven by a lack of available site in a suitable location within Wishaw. An alternative location which appeared to be suitable for building a new school was eventually deemed unsuitable due to an existing former mine.

Further to this, a new build design would require a full decant and dispersal of the cohort to an off site location during demolition of the existing building. To do so would have been prohibitively expensive. Option appraisal suggested that a phased demolition and remodelling, decanting learners into temporary units on site and into floor area added into the new build elements could be accommodated. On this basis the authority worked up an exemplar design for refurbishment and remodelling following this phased approach. This exemplar was fully costed and a budget for the works was set. The costed exemplar was then used as a base design that underwent further development and tendering as part of the framework agreement.

coltness before coltness after


Careful re-assessment of the existing school facilities during design development stages supported key improvements to the master plan such as creating a new whole school social space at ground floor as part of the entrance sequence.

Additional floor area was added into the new build teaching block, and this space was used to minimise the amount of pupil decant into temporary classroom space.

A contractor with high level of experience in refurbishment was used to deliver the project. The contractor brought value through risk assignment, costing and specialist work planning.

North Lanarkshire Council embedded ambitious environmental criteria within their project brief. Passive and active sustainable features include a high performance envelope with stringent air-tightness levels, biomass boilers, ground source heat pumps, rainwater harvesting and a passive stack natural ventilation strategy. Minimising energy use is reliant on occupants taking ownership of their building performance, with real time Building Energy Management System (BEMS) readings visible to students.

As the refurbished school was totally re-clad and roofed, it allowed a fully renewed appearance that creates a unified building. This was intended to inspire renewed pride amongst the pupils, staff and community. Behaviour, attention and attendance levels have all improved since renewal of the school.

Maximise the grounds through the rationalisation of the vehicle/ pedestrian access and the car parking creates a facility that is safe, interesting and welcoming, ultimately giving the school a deserved setting.

A strong design exemplar lays the foundations for the elements of architecture, structure, mechanical services and landscaping to fully integrate. 



  • At Coltness care was taken to retain parts of the existing building that offered the chance for improvement and value. Attention placed on widening corridors, improving stair design and WC layouts have all created operational benefits in support of positive cultural change.
  • Assessment and analysis of the existing structure and structural grids helped identify suitability of use for the retained block. This impacted directly on the decision to locate general teaching and group spaces within this part of the building. The design displays a strong sense of space and use assignment.
  • Measured survey information was held on file but not detailed information relating to services and structure. Re-assessment of condition during the construction phases at Coltness generated the requirement for redesign, in particular of structure and services. This should be minimised or avoided if possible.
  • Costing and budgeting challenges were resolved at an early stage through the implementation of an exemplar design from which the business case and budget were successfully established. 
  • The master plan for creating the renewed school was tested throughout the design process. An integrated approach to design helped identify the correct strategy for site development. In particular, logical grouping of departments requiring heavy servicing ensured a cost effective servicing strategy. 
  • Benefits in behaviour and pupil attainment have been gained through carefully remodelled internal environments and in particular where the circulation space is improved. The brief for refurbishment at Coltness captured the potential to create this kind of change. Change was recognised as a key part to improving learning outcomes at Coltness.
  • Additional floor area was allocated funding and was built at Coltness. This space helped support decant and allows a level of future adaptability for the school at a relatively low cost.



Architecture and Design Scotland


North Lanarkshire Council


CRGP Architects


Graham Construction


Images by CRGP Architects and Martin McAleer


Back to index

Case Study

Download this case study (13.14 Mb)

Case Studies

Get In touch

Got a question or comment? Why not get in touch with our team?