Arcadia Nursery

Learn more about a nursery that won the 2015 RIAS Best Use of Timber Awards. 

Arcadia Nursery's two-storey building beside a main road. The building has a vertical and horizontal timber cladding and a metal roof.
Published: 14/12/2015

Arcadia Nursery was created to provide early-years education for children of university staff, students and the general public at the King’s Buildings campus. It caters for up to 113 children aged from six weeks to five years of age. The building brings together two existing university nurseries into one purpose-built facility with an extensive outdoor play area. 

Case study: Arcadia Nursery

Download this case study to take away key learning and project information from Arcadia Nursery. 

The project

The proposal was designed around the ‘free-play’ concept, which helps develop children’s confidence, independence and creativity. It encourages them to choose the activities they would like to participate in, and whether they would like to be inside or outside. The layout of the nursery has been designed to facilitate this, while ensuring the children are safe and easily supervised.  

The pavilions 

Externally, the pavilions holding each age group’s playroom are clearly identifiable as welcoming, contemporary domestic forms that create a sense of belonging and ownership. These three pavilions are then linked together by a single-storey building, with large rooflights offering views up to the tree canopy above.  

A desire to respect the façade of an adjacent building led to a more compact footprint with raised mezzanines and a first-floor area for offices, staff and family room. Each of the three playrooms opens out to a covered terrace to allow outdoor time throughout the year, and then out into three distinct garden spaces. 

Considerations for energy efficiency and sustainability

The nursery has been designed to be a very low-energy building. It is connected to the central university combined heat and power network, uses no mechanical cooling or ventilation, and has highly efficient lighting and equipment installed. The specification of all materials was carefully considered, with materials chosen that are renewable, have low embodied energy, and have a minimal carbon footprint. 

Two kids from Arcadia Nursery look down at their playmates in an indoor play area from the observatory deck. There is a climbing frame, tables, chairs and storage for toys.

Play area

Children at the nursery get to enjoy an open place space with lots of light and space for play. Image credit: Angus Bremner

Use of timber

Arcadia Nursery uses timber in many ways throughout the project including:

  • the main structure and interior with cross-laminated timber
  • acoustic ceilings that soften the sound and aesthetic in each playroom
  • external cladding with breathable wood fibre insulation throughout
  • decks, walkways, fences and play features throughout the garden

Cross-laminated timber: a solution to an early challenge

An early challenge presented to the project was the extensive tree cover on the site and a desire to retain as many healthy trees as possible. This led to the requirement for a floating, lightweight structure that could be built within a restricted site compound. It was also of foremost importance that a healthy, calm environment was created.  

Cross-laminated timber answered many of the needs of the project. It provided the perfect combination of a warm, tactile interior, while using a natural, sustainable product. This could structurally achieve the clear roof volumes required to ensure the mezzanine spaces were not compromised. 

Ticking the boxes 

Scotland has very few buildings created using this material and technology, which presented many challenges to the design and construction team. Ultimately, it uses recyclable materials that enable a vapour open, breathable building fabric with extremely high airtightness credentials. It also creates a calm and warm internal environment.  

Kids eating their meals during a break in an open plan lunch and kitchen area at Arcadia Nursery.

Dining area

Children enjoying their meal in an open plan dining and kitchen space. The mute colour palette and light seeping through the roof provides a calming environment for children and staff. Image credit: Angus Bremner

Header image credit: Angus Bremner 

A library of sustainable building materials 

Our website includes a web-based resource that showcases sustainable, traditional, innovative, recycled and low carbon building materials. If you are looking for inspiration or information on different types of materials to consider for your project, visit our materials library.  

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