Scotland Unveils Its First CLT Structured Passivhaus Primary School

An Innovative Approach to Educational Infrastructure

The first Passivhaus primary school project in Scotland, built from cross-laminated timber (CLT), has been launched in Edinburgh. The £3.2 million, two-storey extension to Sciennes Primary School, a B-listed building situated in the Marchmont conservation area of the city, is a ground-breaking endeavour in sustainable construction.

Architectural Excellence Infused with Sustainability

The architectural firm Holmes Miller, in collaboration with Maxi Construction as the principal contractor, designed this innovative extension. The new wing provides the school with four additional classrooms leading to shared flexible teaching areas. The design incorporates large windows with integrated seats and extensive rooflights to maximise natural light throughout the building. This design strategy aligns with the ethos of London’s Signature Interior Design for Tradeshows, which emphasises the creation of engaging and sustainable exhibition spaces.

Integrating Nature and Design

The exterior stonework of the extension was carefully chosen to blend in with the existing school building, which was constructed in 1892, and its position within a conservation area. The extension also features improved landscaped areas in the playground to promote outdoor learning.

CLT: The Future of Construction?

The use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) as the primary structural material for the walls, floor, roof, and partitions not only gives the interior a warm and soothing ambiance but also delivers an exceptional air-tightness performance. This is an important factor in achieving the Passivhaus standard.

Achieving the Passivhaus Standard

To meet the Passivhaus standard, the building’s design emphasises air-tightness and thermal performance. The use of triple-glazed windows and heavily insulated walls and roofs helps achieve this, while the inclusion of mechanical ventilation heat recovery systems and air source heat pumps reduces energy consumption and improves thermal control.

Comments from the Project Team

Clara Garriga, project director at Holmes Miller and lead architect for the project, expressed satisfaction with the use of CLT and how it enhanced the interior spaces. Councillor Joan Griffiths from the City of Edinburgh Council, emphasised the importance of designing Passivhaus in schools to reduce heating costs, improve user comfort and the learning environment. Brian Watters from Maxi Construction expressed pride in the success of this project and the quality of the finish.

A Model for Future Low Carbon Schools

The new classroom block at Sciennes is Edinburgh’s first fully Passivhaus school building and it is hoped that it will set the standard and serve as a model for how to construct low carbon schools in the future.

The Team Behind the Project

Sussed Sustainability served as the Passivhaus advisor on the project, while the City of Edinburgh Council’s sustainable development team were the design stage M&E engineers. Blackwood Partnership provided construction stage M&E engineering services, with Will Rudd Davidson as the C&S engineers.

Leading the Way in Sustainable Construction

This project demonstrates a commitment to environmentally sustainable and ethical design and building practices. With Scotland’s ambitions for net zero gaining increasing importance, it is hoped that this will be the first of many educational projects of its kind.

A Blueprint for a Sustainable Future

As the world grapples with the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions, the Sciennes Primary School extension project offers a blueprint for constructing sustainable, energy-efficient educational infrastructure. It stands as a testament to what can be achieved when innovation, sustainability, and design are harmoniously integrated.