Acharacle primary school in Argyll, Scotland is the first example in the UK of Brettstapel construction, a glue-free variant of massive timber construction. This construction method (imported from Austria) helped to create a highly insulated and airtight school, which has achieved the internationally recognised German ‘Passivhaus’ standard.
The brief was to build a exemplar sustainable school for the Highland Council. The project started out with a trip for locals and members of the council to see the schools of Norway, where it became very clear that the schools that were procured traditionally were much more likely to deliver a green agenda.
The new school building is designed from the outset to provide a healthy, state of the art, low carbon environment for pupils and staff. The design of the school resulted in a two-winged layout with a central, communal entrance. The ‘classroom wing’ is oriented east-west to maximize solar gain.
Calling the building environmentally friendly would be an understatement. The whole building is heated by the students themselves, as the structure is so airtight no heating system is required. Electric is supplied by a 6kW wind turbine located on a hill behind the school, and there is a concentration on conservation of resources through the use of efficient electrical appliances and water fittings, collection of rainwater for use in toilets; monitoring displays to keep the school children aware of energy consumption, water consumption, temperature, humidity and CO. levels in the school; and procurement of school furniture which has been developed to minimise off-gassing of harmful VOCs. Not only that, the timber frame construction acts as a sponge for carbon, for every kilo of timber used 2 kg of CO. is soaked up.
Although the construction of the school came with many difficult obstructions, such as creating an indoor environment that’s free of any toxic chemicals. One very important piece of the green jigsaw for achieving this was the inclusion of a sprinkler system.
Project Fire being a pioneer of sustainable solutions for the fire protection industry were called in to design and install a fire pump set and sprinkler system for the school. Project Fire installed an Ordinary Hazard 2 system with a total of 185 heads protecting the main building along with separate pump and tank storage. Installing a sprinkler system at the school negated the need for the internal linings to be treated for fire resistance, helping to create the healthy indoor environment the Highlands Council wanted for its pupils and staff. In fact the whole building is free of any toxic materials.
As a part of the wider fire protection strategy Project Fire also included their patented, Zonecheck sustainable flow-switch tester which saves 100% of the water normally discharged to waste when carrying out routine sprinkler system tests, reducing the environmental impact of the sprinkler system. Zonecheck also reduces maintenance costs and the carbon footprint of the sprinkler system as it helps to reduce leaks caused by corrosion and negates the need for specialist contractors to travel to site to carry out testing.
Essentially our shared ideology for sustainability and innovation made Project Fire a perfect choice for this ground breaking, innovative project.