Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investments

Acharacle Primary School, Acharacle, Argyll, Highland, UK-Scotland

Exemplary design categories: comfort, cost efficiency, energy efficiency, procurement approach

How the facility meets the needs of education and communities:
The objective of this project was to pioneer a new construction system in the UK, which results in significantly less waste on site, higher tolerances of building components leading to improved installation on site, and reduced time on site, and to work closely with building users to address their needs in the building brief. The briefing document developed by the Council included Key Performance Indicators for various aspects of the building, including water consumption, energy consumption, daylight levels, insulation and airtightness levels, indoor air quality and relative humidity, non-toxic materials specification, appropriate low-energy ventilation and heating strategies, and quality of external spaces.

The single-storey building design has been developed to create a clear spatial logic - with one wing of four, 25-pupil classrooms and another wing of community facilities centred on a communal entrance hall - which assists orientation. This is complemented by a robust and considered internal colour strategy, developed by Europe’s foremost colour consultants.

Acharacle Primary School is the first building in the UK to be constructed from Brettstapel - a glue-free form of “massive timber” construction that is in its infancy in the UK. Developed in Germany, the system uses hardwood dowels to connect softwood posts, which are then arranged to form prefabricated entire wall, roof and floor panels. These panels usually have windows and doors, as well as a number of services such as plumbing and wiring pre-installed in the factory. Procured from Austria and delivered to site on lorries, the prefabricated panels were quickly erected to achieve a wind and watertight envelope that achieved thermal and air tightness performance levels significantly greater than required by current building regulations. The highly insulated Brettstapel building is naturally ventilated and under regular occupancy conditions is heated by the building occupants and electric equipment such as computers. A 6kW wind turbine has been erected on a hill to the rear of the school. In turn this heats water in well-insulated storage vessels, which then provides heating and hot water throughout the school. Internally the school is finished with hygroscopic materials and vegetable paints that help control moisture levels while not off-gassing to the indoor environment. Even the furniture was specially designed using non-toxic materials. The Brettstapel system uses high volumes of solid timber which sequesters CO2. Essentially, the building acts like a sponge for carbon. For every kilo of timber used 1.8 kg of CO2 is soaked up.

The building is unusual in that the classrooms have been oriented towards south, rather than north as would be expected. During the design stage it was decided to maximise passive solar gain to minimise heat requirements by facing all principle rooms south. To minimise the risk of overheating, external fabric roller blinds have been installed, which are controlled by a combination of sunlight sensors and building user override switches. Similarly, the natural ventilation strategy uses a combination of automatic high level opening windows and user-controlled low level openings to maintain a comfortable internal environment. This hybrid system allows the occupants a good degree of control, while the building management system automatically adjusts certain systems as required.

Community has access to sports, fitness and teaching facilities out of school hours (6-10pm weekdays and all day weekends). The School also supports traditional Music, Feisean nan Gaidheal through provision of tuition and performance venue The external building superstructure, which was fabricated, delivered and erected by an Austrian company, Sohm Holzbautechnik, achieved the “Passivhaus” standard in terms of its insulation and air tightness values. It is hoped that the use of this particular construction system will serve as a catalyst for developing fabrication facilities for this system in Scotland.

Involvement of users and the local community in the planning and design process:
To ensure the new building adequately met the needs of its’ users, the whole briefing and design process was carried out in consultation with the staff, children and local community. As well as integrating them into the project, this process provided an opportunity for the project team to obtain a clear understanding of what was actually required by the building users, and engendered a sense of ownership among them. In turn this has led to a greater understanding of the building by its’ users, as well as an increased sense of pride. A steering group comprising the client, local community and staff members met with the design team on a regular basis to discuss all matters surrounding the new project. During the construction phase, the school set up a "blog‟ to record progress of the school. A number of visits in to the new school were carried out at various stages of construction.

Activity Areas: 7 classrooms, multi-purpose hall, nusic room, visitor centre, nursery, kitchen, dining room, support rooms, changing rooms, staff offices

Project costs: GBP 4,800,000.00

Source: Submitted to OECD for "Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011" in 2010

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User perspectives (3)

“We are all absolutely delighted with our new building. The space, layout and atmosphere gives our children and staff the best possible environment in which to learn and work. The building itself provides many teaching and learning opportunities and the children are experiencing first hand the benefits of environmentally friendly living. Staff, visitors and parents all comment on the calm atmosphere that the building creates and we are already noticing a difference in the concentration and achievement levels for the pupils.”
Lyndsay Bradley, Headteacher
“There is a lot more space and it‟s nice and warm in the winter. Our classrooms are bigger, we have nice clean toilets and there are no leaks! We are really lucky to have such an amazing new building. We like that we record the wind turbine.”
Pupils in P5-7E
“We like that it has a big hall and it is made of wood which is good for education. It is eco friendly, clean and tidy. We like that we can tell the humidity and temperature and we love the SMART boards!”
Pupils in P4-6G

Images (4)

Drawings (4)

Location and site plan (Registration required)
image/tiff
Credit: Scottish Government
Floor plan (Registration required)
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Credit: Scottish Government
Location plan (Registration required)
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Credit: Scottish Government
Furniture plan (Registration required)
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Credit: Scottish Government