Sector: Education Completion date: April 2021

The project is being delivered in two phases. In Phase 1, a new build school has been created adjacent to the existing primary school. In Phase 2, we are refurbishing the existing school to provide a new dining hall and family centre for the wider community of Merkinch. A covered walkway links the two buildings, providing pupils with access for lunch. It has been sensitively designed to link the contemporary building with the Category B listed Victorian building, built in 1876.

The project was procured through Scape Scotland, a leading public sector procurement authority, dedicated to creating spaces, places and experiences that leave a sustainable legacy, whilst enriching the local economy across Scotland.

Key facts

The new school includes:

Construction while the school stayed running

During the development, the existing school has been kept operational. We installed temporary modular accommodation on the existing playing fields to decant existing classrooms. We undertook this work as part of an Enabling Works contract installing all the infrastructure, fencing and services.

Cross-laminated timber frame saves time and cost

We worked collaboratively in partnership with Highland Council on a value engineering phase suggesting several changes to the Stage 3 design. This work saved time and cost, and improved quality.

The design was changed from a steel frame with precast concrete/lightweight steel infill panels to a hybrid glulam and cross-laminated timber (CLT) frame and shell.

CLT provides continuous support, so we were able to use mechanically fixed brick cladding that gives the aesthetics of natural brick, but is quicker to build with no risk from adverse weather.

CLT lightened the building load on the ground, is quicker to build and enabled a cellulose-based breathable external wall, improving the learning environment. CLT also lent itself very well to the shape and size of the design.

Designed and built to be thermally efficient

CLT is naturally a thermally efficient and airtight element, enhancing the thermal performance of the building fabric, in turn reducing the operational costs for the school whilst creating an enhanced learning environment.

All CLT panels were installed to strict tolerances, ensuring that they fitted together accurately and all penetrations, openings and junctions were correctly sealed, to limit warm air leaking out through the building envelope and achieve a very low airtightness figure. 

Near completion, a thermal image survey of Phase 1 assessed the thermal performance of the building fabric. Only minor adjustments were required to some external doors, where draught seals were not fully compressing. Since occupation, the air quality and CO2 levels have been monitored, with results well within the required levels.

Engaging with the community

We have worked in partnership with teachers, pupils and the community to keep them informed as well as to create lasting social value for the area.

During phase 1 of the project, activities included:

An award-winning project

Project team

Architect: Norr
Project manager: The Highland Council
Principal contractor: Robertson Northern
Civil & structural engineer: W A Fairhurst
M&E engineer: Pick Everard
CDM coordinator: The Highland Council

Reducing the whole life carbon of our projects

Merkinch Primary School and Family Centre project generated 437 kgCO2e/m2 of embodied carbon over the life cycle.


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