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The staff and pupils of Acharacle Primary School, Lochaber, today (Thursday) moved into their state of the art timber school, which promises to be the most energy efficient in Scotland.
Scotland’s first wholly sustainable school is home to 48 English and Gaelic Medium primary school pupils and 14 English and Gaelic Medium nursery school pupils.
The school is 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 is 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 is significantly reduced through the use of large triple-glazed windows for daylighting, and by using very energy efficient appliances.
Councillor Michael Foxley, Leader of the Council’s Administration and a local councillor for Fort William and Ardnamurchan, visited the school earlier in the week when pupils were given a preview of their new surroundings.
He said:: “This is a landmark and exciting development, which demonstrates our commitment to creating a greener Council. This safe and non-toxic school will help our sustainability design agenda. “
Head Teacher, Mrs Lyndsay Bradley, said: “The whole community is delighted that the new school is now open. It is an amazing new building.”
The contract was awarded in two parts. The structural frame was manufactured and erected by Sohm Holzbautechnik GmbH of Austria while all the infrastructure works and mechanical and electrical installations were undertaken by MacGregor Construction.
The new school has five classrooms, one of which is for shared community use, a nursery, a multi-purpose hall, separate dining facility, music practice rooms, changing rooms for both school and community use when the new community playing field is ready, an entrance foyer that that can be used as an extension of the school facilities and small community gatherings.
The community is working with Councillor Foxley to fund an upgrade of the venue for local use and to provide art in the school.