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Norton Park, Edinburgh

Redevelopment of Grade B listed former school


Norton Park in Edinburgh is a Grade B listed former school. It has been redeveloped to provide low-cost office accommodation for charities and voluntary organisations. The owners, the Albion Trust, wanted the redevelopment to meet high environmental standards and to minimise energy use within the building.

The building provides a central location for voluntary organisations in Edinburgh. with offices to a very high standard that are economical to run. The building has been fully let since it opened and there is a waiting list for offices.

Norton Park1


Existing Building

Norton Park is a red sandstone Grade B listed building with a black slate roof. It was built in 1903, originally a Board School. The Albion Trust took ownership of the building in 1995 finding it to be structurally sound but in need of refurbishment.


Need for Redevelopment

In the early 1990's a number of charities in Edinburgh were struggling to find affordable office space. The then, Lothian Regional Council suggested that one of Edinburgh’s redundant schools might be suitably converted to provide this accommodation. Norton Park was selected as being the most suitable for the project.

The Albion Trust was formed to manage the redevelopment. Funds of £3 million were raised from 10 different sources to support the range of social, environmental and community benefits the refurbishment would bring. Additional funding was available for a percentage of the restoration work because of the building’s listed status. The refurbishment of the Norton Park Building cost a total of £2,837,000 including fees. This is equivalent to £756/m² – much cheaper than an equivalent new building.

The Albion Trust could not afford to construct a new building for its requirements, nor could they find a suitable site. The redevelopment of Norton Park School, made use of an otherwise redundant building, preserved its exterior and saved it from dereliction. Norton Park's inner-city location gives convenient access to public transport, an environmentally preferable alternative to the car.


Resource Efficiency

The Albion Trust worked with the architects to ensure the redevelopment minimised detrimental effects on the environment. Measures taken included the salvage and reuse of products and materials. This has included wall tiles, radiators, doors, wainscoting, floorboards, stone and slate tiles. The original sinks and WCs were sold for reuse.


Design Approach

Little change was made to the external appearance of the building but ramps were installed at entrances and the rear entrance was enlarged to improve access. The internal structure was altered to incorporate a large reception area, office units and associated support facilities for use by charities.

The design included the installation of mezzanine floors in the office areas. This increased the usable floor area by 25% and the potential rental income, making the redevelopment financially viable. 


Improvement Measures

High levels of insulation have been installed along with secondary double glazing, highly efficient lighting and condensing boilers. The operation of the building is controlled by a building management system (BMS). Wherever possible, local products and products with low embodied energy were used, and products using volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were avoided. Further details are below:

  • Mineral wool was used to insulate the walls and roof.
  • Wooden, argon-filled double glazing was installed in addition to the original sash unit.
  • Mechanical ventilation is utilised in the building's core providing one air change per hour. This can be run overnight to pre-cool the building in warmer weather.
  • Windows can also be opened to provide natural ventilation.
  • Solar heating, devised by Edinburgh Napier University circulates air warmed in the roof space to the top floor.
  • Gas-fired condensing boilers supply heat to radiators and to the air-handling units and also provide hot water. Fifteen heating zones are controlled by room thermostats; radiators have TRV's.
  • Rainwater is harvested for use in WC's.
  • Generally natural daylight penetration is good. Light shelves were installed to increase daylight in the areas below the new mezzanines. Four new roof-lights were also created.
  • High frequency fluorescent lamps were installed. Lighting is controllable by row and occupancy sensors switch off those not required.


Energy Performance

After redevelopment, during the first year of occupation, there was no assigned member of staff with responsibility for the energy management and operation of Norton Park. Unsurprisingly, it was not operated as intended and, despite the energy-saving measures and technologies, energy consumption was high.

Before the appointment of a facilities manager, energy consumption was 249 kWh/m²/year. Since their appointment this has been reduced to 150 kWh/m²/year.

Carbon emissions associated with energy used in the building were reduced from 80 tonnes a year to 50 tonnes a year.

Mineral wool was installed to insulate the walls and roof such that achieved U-values were 0.2W/m²K and 0.1W/m²K respectively. Double glazing resulted in a window U-value of 0.85W/m²K.


Temperature measurements were taken over a winter period (January - February 2000) and a summer period (July - August 2000). During the winter period, the internal temperature fluctuated between 19°C and 23°C. Summer temperatures ranged from 20°C to 25°C, which was broadly acceptable but there was some localised overheating, particularly on the mezzanine floors.


Occupant Consultation

Occupants were consulted following the opening of Norton Park. Overall, they were generally happy with the building and felt that being in Norton Park benefitted their
organisations. Their only significant complaints were that in summer the offices were sometimes too hot and stuffy and the windows were difficult to open.


2012 Energy Audit

An energy audit was carried out by Energy Saving Trust for the Albion Trust in February 2012.

The report identified that Norton Park consumed 732,315 kWh of energy per year, at a cost of £38, 625. Through basic housekeeping, re-commissioning of the ventilation and heating systems and a range of other low cost measures, such as the installation of more energy efficient lighting, annual savings of £6,150 could be made.

The energy consumption identified in the 2012 audit was greater than immediately following the refurbishment, indicating that Norton Park is operating less efficiently than it had previously been.

The range of measures suggested to reduce energy consumption are detailed in the table below.

Recommended Energy Saving Measures

No Cost Action

Annual Cost Saving

Saving (kWh)

Saving CO2(tonne)

Typical Payback (years)

Staff/members awareness campaign





Low Cost Action

Entrance foyer door control (to combat significant air movement)





Replace tungsten halogen lamps





Capital Cost Action

HVAC re-commissioning





Ventilation balance & heat recovery





Solar PV (subject to planning consent)











Initially, an tenant survey found that occupants were generally happy with Norton Park and felt that being in the building benefitted their organisations. Their only significant complaints were that in summer the offices were sometimes too hot and stuffy and the windows could be difficult to open. The development provides a
number of social benefits:

  • An improved work environment with shared facilities (e.g meeting spaces) that individual charities could not have afforded.
  • Close proximity to other charities has improved communication and reduced travel time and costs.
  • Accessibility has been improved for both occupants and visitors.


Immediately following the refurbishment, there was no one member of staff who was responsible for the energy management and operation of Norton Park. It was therefore, unsurprisingly not operated as intended. When a facilities manager was appointed they conducted a series of investigations and identified that a range of heating and ventilation issues were contributing to increased running costs including:

  • Heating set at 22°C.
  • Condensing boilers were not condensing.
  • Boilers and ventilation units were running unneccesarily overnight.
  • Frost protection was not working correctly.
  • Controls for the heating system were not working properly.

This demonstrates the need for energy efficiency to be carried through to the commissioning and management of the building – when the identified problems were rectified, energy consumption fell by 40%.

A thermographic survey identified leakage of cold air through the secondary glazing plus some areas of the walls and ceilings where there were thought to be gaps in the insulation. This could account for higher than anticipated gas consumption. This shows that careful detailing is required and care must be taken when installing insulation to ensure areas are fully filled.



Norton Park

The Albion Trust

BRE (authors of original BRECSU refurbishment case study)

Energy Saving Trust (authors of 2012 energy audit)


Resource Efficient Scotland supported the preparation and presentation of this case study for the Retrofit Scotland website.

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