UK's first Brettstapel Building

Primary School, Acharacle, Ardnamurchan

Client: Highland Council

The school was to be designed and built to represent the state of the art in sustainability. Gaia's design, developed with the pupils and local community, provides a healthy, low tech carbon neutral environment for them for generations to come.

The school is the UK's first to be fabricated from 'Brettstapel' - a massive timber panel construction that is dowel-fixed, not glue-based. It was chosen for time, cost and health benefits, and to motivate the development of ecological UK forestry and mass-timber industry.

Internally, robust materials such as clay plaster on Fermacell provide high levels of hygroscopicity, thermal mass and a comfortable, healthy indoor climate controlled by CO2 sensors. A colour scheme provides a high quality teaching and learning environment. Floors are linoleum and Scottish timber.

The design incorporates efficient lighting and small power, passive solar gain, optimized daylighting, and a simple natural ventilation strategy. Very high levels of insulation and airtightness were required to achieve a passive standard. Under normal conditions the occupants are sufficient to heat the building.

The external form provides sheltered areas for children to use and maintain. The colour consultant provided a vibrant and stimulating colour scheme.

An options appraisal reviewed renewables including biomass (pioneered by Gaia at Glencoe, Kinlochleven and QMUC). This highlighted wind and a 5 kW Turbine meets all the energy needs. The building has entered a Post Occupancy Evaluation period and Gaia are appointed for 2 years to ensure that the building performs as intended.