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Sohm builds Scotland's first sustainable school

© Sohm Holzbautechnik
16. February 2009

Sohm Holzbautechnik GmbH has manufactured the pioneering timber superstructure for a new £5.8m primary school on the west coast of Scotland. Scotland's first fully sustainable school features exceptional levels of insulation, air tightness and a minimal need for heating.

The new Acharacle Primary School, Ardnamurchan, will be a timber building with exceptional levels of insulation, air tightness and a minimal need for heating. The total cost of the project is £5.8 million and the school is due to open in early 2009.

The timber structural frame was manufactured and is being erected by Sohm Holzbautechnik GmbH of Austria. The contract is the largest in the company's history and represents almost two-thirds of the Austrian company's annual turnover.

Local Highland Councillor Dr Michael Foxley said: “The difference between this type of building construction and others is that has a high level of energy insulation which creates very safe non toxic environment for people to live and work in the building. It’s not a cheap project because of its location but it is a forerunner of future sustainable projects from which we will learn a lot.”

The school will be so well insulated and draught-proof (‘air-tight’) that the heat from the children, staff and computers is enough to heat the building. All internal materials are natural, i.e. untreated timber, linoleum, clay plaster and vegetable-based paints.

The structure of the building (walls and roofs) is made from ‘Brettstapel’ - a form of glue-free massive timber construction. The use of one tonne of this material is the equivalent of taking a car off the road for nearly five months. Brettstapel is used as the internal finish for many parts of the school. Being wood, it is warm to the senses. Classroom and hall ceilings have an ‘acoustic profile’ to improve the acoustic performance of these rooms.

Most of the school is made from wood: the structure is solid wood, the insulation is wood, and the building will be clad in durable European larch. There is a wind turbine on the hill behind the school to provide hot water for classrooms and toilets.

Rainwater is being collected from the copper roofs and will be used to flush the toilets. Electricity consumption will be significantly reduced through the use of large triple-glazed windows for daylighting, and by using very energy efficient appliances.