Innovation Shorts | Burry Port Community Primary School – the first Passivhaus school in Wales
In 2016 Burry Port Community Primary School project won the Sustainable School category in the Sustain Wales Awards for the first Passivhaus school in Wales. Scored highly by the expert panel of judges and a clear winner in the public vote, the school is an excellent example of how a collaborative, inclusive approach to the design and development has created an exemplar eco-building with learning, health and well-being at the heart.
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Burry Port Community Primary School – the first Passivhaus school in Wales
Carmarthenshire County Council and architects Architype worked with Burry Port Community Primary School to bring together the towns separate infant and junior schools on one central site in a design that celebrates Welsh materials and embraces innovation to provide the school with a more flexible and healthier future. The prominent new-build includes the first Passivhaus school building in Wales and a separate Brettstapel elliptical pod for multi-use purposes and unites the new and old elements of the school. The design team arranged for a mixture of infant and junior pupils from Burry Port Primary School to attend a Design Workshop to learn about the principles of design and construction. Energy use is expected to be 70% ‐ 90% less than a like‐for‐like school building built to building regulation standard.
Conceived by the client, Carmarthenshire County Council, the pioneering scheme for Burry Port Community Primary School, brings together the towns once separate infant and junior schools on one central site, in a design that celebrates Welsh materials and embraces innovation.
Set over three principal buildings, the project is a mix of refurbishment and new-build. The prominent new-build aspects include the first Passivhaus school building in Wales, as well as a separate, Brettstapel constructed elliptical pod for multi-use purposes, which unites the new and old elements of the school.
The original infant school has been rationalised and renovated, solving a number of environmental defects and creating four large, secure, open-plan classrooms as well as multi-use space for teaching and messy play, breakout space, and covered outdoor areas.
Materials & Methods of Construction
The new-build aspects of the scheme are a triumph of innovation and sustainable construction, not to mention an exemplar use of Welsh timber, which the new buildings are entirely constructed from.
In line with Passivhaus requirements, the honest, pared back form of the new junior years building is wrapped in continuous air-tight duvet layer from the foundations-up. To give a fresh and natural aesthetic, the envelope is clad in Welsh larch and topped with a contemporary zinc standing seam roof.
The elliptical pod building, constructed using the Brettstapel method, is one of the first examples of Brettstapel construction being used in the education sector in the UK. The technique makes use of Wales’ abundance of low-grade softwood, Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce.
The sustainable Passivhaus strategy that underpins the new extension’s excellent building performance is met with an innovative low-carbon approach to design and construction.
The Brettstapel system in particular is a great example of this, maximising the performance of low-grade softwood components allowing them to be used structurally whilst providing a natural, toxin-free interior that complements the interal air quality.
The Brettstapel process uses short lengths of softwood timber, held together with hardwood dowels that swell and tighten with exchanging moisture content. The result is a solid timber panel, providing a dual purposes as a load bearing wall or floor, and an exposed internal finish. In the case of the pod building, each panel forms a facet of the ellipse shape and provides a beautiful natural and healthy finish.
Renewable, low-tech construction techniques are utilised throughout the scheme in particular on the Welsh timber frame and façade. Besides the inherent excellent sustainable credentials, the two new buildings showcase the capabilities of Welsh timber and promote the material to the industry, with positive consequences to broaden the market for Welsh timber.
The eco-specification continues beyond the construction aspects of the scheme and is continued throughout the interior. Wood wool acoustic panels made from a mixture of pine, spruce and poplar wood fibre strands, bound with magnesite and treated with natural salt have been specified for the ceiling panels. Other materials have included recycled tyre matting in areas of heavy footfall and natural vegetable oil stains on interior ply finishes.