Pupils at a low decile Christchurch school will return to school this week excited to see brand new classrooms being built in what are some of the most high-tech materials in the country.

South Hornby School in the west of Christchurch are moving to a new $8.4m site of the old Branston Intermediate School.

Education Minister Hekia Parata announced the closure of Branston Intermediate and South Hornby primary's move in 2013.

The next generation learning environments are being built using structural insulated panels (SIPs) - a first for any New Zealand school.


The panels, which consist of an insulating foam core sandwiched between strand board, make the classrooms air-tight and highly energy efficient.

"They make for cool heads and warm feet, which is perfect for a learning environment," said Nick Hubbard, general manager of SIPs provider, Formance.

The pre-fabricated, earthquake-resilient panels using board from Canada is shipped to China where it is pressed and cut.

It is then sent to New Zealand where it is installed on site, cutting construction time.

"It's new technology for New Zealand, but it's been successfully proven in the US, UK and Europe for more than 40 years," says Hubbard, who added that it's now standard in the US to build school with panels.

"The rest of the world has moved on, and we haven't. The earthquakes have provided us with an opportunity to move the industry into a new era."

While the material costs about three per cent more than traditional methods, the panels are so energy efficient that the "life costs" are greatly reduced, Nick says.

They should cut heating and cooling costs by half, he says, while also bringing a drop in ongoing maintenance costs.