Furness Academy, Cumbria | Great Britain


Project Educational Center
Location Cumbria, Great Britain
Year of construction 2013

Execution B&K Structures
Architecture Halliday Clark
Support structure

Furness Academy is a pioneering building project in the education sector in Great Britain. It is one of the largest educational institutions for which cross-laminated timber was used for the support structure and as the core structural component.
From the conceptual design to completion, all specialist companies involved collaborated with a high level of professionalism during the entire construction period. This made timely completion possible, while keeping to the intended budget. Thanks to the systematic use of cross-laminated timber and glulam, the Furness Academy features outstanding ecological characteristics. For example, around 1,395 tons of CO2 are bound in the support structure of the building alone.

Point of departure and conceptual design

The planning and conceptual design of a new educational center in the English County of Cumbria had become necessary, since the people in charge wanted to accommodate a total of 1,200 students here in the 2013-2014 school year. The concept for the new Furness Academy was founded on the basic notion by the Cumbria County Council of merging three existing schools: Alfred Barrow School, the Parkview Community College of Technology and Thorncliffe School.

Thus on a total area of 12.5 hectares, a new, joint educational center came into being! Today, the facility offers top-grade learning conditions, because right from the onset the benefits for the students took center stage during the entire planning process.
Along with functionality, the utmost importance was attached to social aspects of the building complex, its connection to existing sport facilities, intelligent energy supply, a sophisticated ventilation as well as a natural lighting system.

The following requirements and specifications were decisive for the design process and overall planning of Furness Academy:
· flexible structural design
· better prospects for the future based on a comprehensive education in a safe and friendly environment
· low environmental impact and a high degree of ecological sustainability
· communal areas facilitating communication as well as top-class sports and play areas, both inside and outside
· inviting atmosphere and identity
· outstanding visual presence within the city
· architecture that best accommodates the educational focuses of sports and applied mathematics

Taking these criteria into account, an environment was supposed to be created that exerts a lasting positive influence on the students.

Execution and installation

The installation of around 2,700 m³ binderholz CLT BBS took 22 weeks of construction time in total. Exactly 1,988 BBS panels were processed during this time, some of which had a length of up to 20 meters. Heavy rains, strong winds and snowfall hampered construction conditions, making unloading, installation and all lifting work, in particular, rather difficult. Despite such difficult conditions, Furness Academy was completed successfully and on time.
In order to achieve maximum flexibility of use as desired, the plans provided for a clear width of 7 meters. The use of large BBS XL elements allowed for the mastering of even such structurally challenging requirements, which are difficult to implement in terms of installation.

binderholz CLT BBS brochure

The BBS elements span the entire width of the building, ensuring very flexible spatial design. Modern classroom areas emerged on both sides of a central interior corridor. Furness Academy is one of the largest educational institutions in the United Kingdom in BBS construction. Its unique combination of steel and wood is one of its most impressive architectural features.

Specially developed connector systems enabled extraordinarily fast installation. The so-called Building Information Modeling (BMI) was used, so as to ensure the accuracy of all work executed by the individual technical crews (steel construction, timber construction, etc.) This means that a very detailed and exact 3-D building model is stored in a centralized place, and all specialist companies involved can access it. They enter and update the materials and components they use in a main BIM file. So the risk of misplanning is reduced to a minimum right from the onset.

Following the completion of the construction project, extensive tests for sound-proofing and airtightness were conducted. The values identified in the tests fell below all specifications. Not least on account of these outstanding results, the competent authorities graded the building complex "GOOD". Furness Academy was opened in September 2013 as scheduled. Building costs totaled 22 million pounds.

Photos: © B&K Structures, binderholz

Design: Halliday Clark

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