Hilden Grange Preparatory School\

Transforming a school in one year

An innovative new building has kickstarted the transformation of Hilden Grange Prep School in Kent. Winner of a 2014 National RIBA Award.

Changing Fortunes

Hilden Grange School was suffering from falling numbers on roll and a tired estate. Temporary classrooms had reached the end of their serviceable life and the school lacked a decent dining and assembly hall. Our challenge was to create an outstanding learning environment that could kickstart a change in the school's fortunes.

Its position on a steeply sloping site meant that a considerable portion of the budget could end up in ground works and innovative and economical construction methods were required to limit disruption to a single academic year.

“At every stage of the project Hawkins\Brown were a delight to work with. The new buildings have surpassed our expectations and provide an outstanding learning environment.”

John Withers, Head Teacher, Hilden Grange Preparatory School

A School on a Slope

Working with the topography, the design concept created two wings of new teaching accommodation, with a centralised assembly/dining hall, opening up previously obscured views of the Kent Weald.

The new space, including specialist art and science classrooms, was designed on tiered levels, for different year groups, each with external landscaped ‘terraces’. The building’s form was inspired by the Victorian main school building while the coloured entrance doors respond to the natural red brick buildings that surround the site.

“The new buildings are wonderful and have quite transformed the lives of all of us who work there.”

Celine George, Senior Teacher, Hilden Grange Preparatory School

Built in a Year

The building was constructed using cross-laminated timber manufactured off site, to both accelerate construction, and reduce the building’s carbon footprint. The structure is exposed internally, creating a well-insulated, sustainable and sophisticated learning environment, which encourages pupils at the school to understand the modern construction methods of the building. Cedar shingles, larch cladding and a wildflower green roof allow the school to blend harmoniously with the local landscape

Connecting the building’s two wings is a new assembly/dining hall with full height curtain wall glazing and amphitheatre seating, built into the sloping landscape, and connected by external walkways.

  • Project Details
  • Lessons Learnt
  • Sustainability
  • Drawings

Project Summary

Project Team

Building Contractor: BAM Construction Ltd
Structural Engineer: Price & Myers
Landscape Architect/Designer: b:d landscape architects
Services Engineer: Peter Deer & Associates
Civil Engineer: Price and Myers
Quantity Surveying: Huw Davies
Project Management: Arcadis
CLT Engineer: Engenuiti
Transport Highways: WSP
Planning Consultant: Gerald Eve LLP


  • RIBA Awards 2014 - National Award - Winner
  • RIBA Awards 2014 - South East Regional Award - Winner
  • BD Architect of the Year Awards 2013 - Education (Nursery - Secondary) - Shortlisted
  • Tonbridge Civic Society Awards 2012 - The New Buildings Project - Winner

Lessons Learnt

As our first Cross Laminated Timber project, the Ritblat Building has proved valuable learning for the practice and its ongoing work in pioneering sustainable construction methods.


The building’s timber superstructure and predominantly natural ventilation contributed to its BREEAM Very Good rating. Other standout features include the building’s green roof and rainwater recovery system and its use of water metering and miniature combined heat and power boilers. As well as improved natural landscaping, the building has bat boxes to help to promote bat conservation in the area.


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