Thurso College

This college extension showcases a variety of timber construction materials and methods.

A builder working on the curved roof at Thurso College during its construction. There are long planks of wood in the centre of the space.
Published: 05/07/2016

This new extension to Thurso College will provide a base for the Environmental Research Institute (ERI). The building’s design reflects the aspirations of the ERI, marrying its ethos to the built environment that will be its home.

It is important that the building is recognised by its users to have a strong environmental agenda. As such, the design embraces pragmatic environmental principles. These can be easily identified and create a functional and pleasant working environment that reflects the work of the ERI.

Case study: Thurso College

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Timber technologies

The main structure is made from glulam columns and beams. Cross-laminated panels (CLP) have been used for the upper floor and some inner walls. External walls and roof purlins are made from engineered timber I-beams. These are light to handle and very thermally efficient.

The cladding is either untreated European larch or Scots pine treated with furfuryl alcohol (a process that uses a natural alcohol made from sugar cane). This preserves the timber, leaving no adverse environmental impact during its manufacture, life, removal, or destruction.

A close up of the supporting structure of Thurso College's curved roof. It is held together with large metal hexagon-shaped bolts.

Thurso College: use of timber

A section of the timber structure holding the weight of the roof. Image credit: HRI Architects

Special timber-related features

The combination of CLP and glulam structure was chosen as they are both materials with low embodied energy. They also clearly visually embrace the ideas and ideals of sustainability.

In addition, the choice of materials is quicker to erect than the usual steel and concrete structures used in commercial buildings, saving six weeks on the build programme.

The CLP is strong and visually attractive and as such can be used as the finished article with minimal finishing. The cross-laminated timber has also been used as the one-hour fire separating wall around the fire escape stair without any treatment, due to its known behaviour in fire conditions.

Two large scaffolding on wheels below the curved roof of Thurso College's extension.

Thurso College: construction site

A look at the interior of the build during its construction. Image credit: HRI Architects

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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