Page 50 - Independent Schools Magazine
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Proliferating: explaining timber’s booming popularity for school builds
Of late, discerning school bursars have been paying particular attention to timber as a building material. Timber is quickly proving itself able to make school budgets go as far as possible, creating sustainable, aesthetically-pleasing and affordable teaching spaces.
Timber’s  exibility partly explains its rapidly growing popularity. Timber buildings can become almost anything imaginable – a classroom block, outdoor learning environment, gym and more. An impressive list of potential customisations and adaptations also make these buildings ideal for catering to those with disabilities or Special Educational Needs.
Marymount International School is a great example of an independent institution
who have harnessed timber’s powers. They transformed a derelict part of their Surrey countryside campus into a dynamic classroom block – nicknamed ‘The Garden Rooms’ – containing six internal rooms to be used
for regular classes as well as language oral examinations.
As well as continuing to save the school money even after completion, sourcing and building with timber is also light on the wallet. Again, this sets it apart from its rival construction counterparts, brick and concrete. Commercial Building Costing Case Studies shows that building with timber comes in at 10-15% cheaper than equivalents constructed using other traditional designs.
Along with shortages in supplies of brick and block, 60% of respondents to a survey from a Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) survey stated that they have dif culty in tying down bricklayers – resulting in increased costs associated with these types of construction project. Although demand for timber is high, material remains readily available.
Minimal disruption
As well as the monetary, there are also
time savings to be made when choosing a timber building for your independent school. Timber projects come to life very quickly – as Marymount International School discovered. The Stable Company sought planning permission on behalf of the school, handling the process through to the handover of the keys to the build – this whole process took only six months.
A shorter construction timescale is a crucial consideration for schools wanting to minimise on-site disruption, or simply have the additional teaching space in place as quickly as possible; on-site time for Marymount’s classroom was  ve weeks.
Unlocking the great outdoors
One of timber’s superpowers is its ability to blend seamlessly into surrounding areas – such as greenery or woodland – turning derelict land into truly beautiful, valuable space. As timber buildings are totally customisable – with accessibility features such as sliding doors – they can become the ultimate additional learning environment.
Being 100% renewable, timber has the lowest ecological resource index of any building material. This makes it a strong contender
for schools wishing to burnish their green credentials, or perhaps demonstrate a commitment to sustainability amongst pupils, parents, staff and inspectors.
There are a range of other eco-friendly customisations that can be made with a timber build, too – these features can include: ground-source heat pumps, ef cient lighting, specialist insulation and more. In addition to saving energy, they keep running costs at a minimum in the long-term.
Timber surroundings
have hidden benefits
As well as facilitating outdoor learning objectives, there are also academic papers exploring timber’s mental impact on pupils and staff – and the results are certainly positive. A study conducted by Planet Ark claims that “the presence of wood has positive physiological effects, lowering blood pressure, heart rate and stress responses when compared with other material types”. With minimising teacher and pupil stress a growing priority
for many independent schools, a timber surrounding can only be good news.
Although not a panacea for every independent school, there is no denying that timber has a lot going for it; word does seem to be getting out there about its sustainable, cost-effective ability to provide dynamic, beautiful learning space.
A classroom block constructed on previously derelict land
‘The Garden Rooms’ at Marymount International School
Commercial Building Costing Case Studies - Wood: Nature Inspired Design - nal.pdf
50 Buildings
Marymount’s timber classrooms were erected within  ve weeks

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