Exposed for Beauty
One goal of the interior design was to leave wood surfaces exposed to provide a "warm color and feel" to the room. The surfaces have been treated with a natural wax, Osmo, to prevent staining and discoloring. The walls in the storage areas were left with a rough finish, and the walls in the corridor are lined with plasterboard for fireproofing.
"We wanted to appeal to the senses of the children. Being surrounded by wood and natural carpet, we felt this would create a pleasant environment," explains Wagner.
Other aspects of the design are environmentally friendly. The skylights offer steady north light, and the other windows open with electric motors to enable natural ventilation. The south-facing base of the skylight housing can be fitted with solar collectors or photovoltaic panels if funding become available in the future. The solid wood structure reduces carbon dioxide emissions — compared to conventional construction — by replacing steel and other materials high in embodied energy.
Geiss adds: "The emissions are also reduced through the use of a building material with a low embodied energy. This is achieved by increased storage of carbon within the timber by an average of 75 years (design life) and reduced fossil fuel use through the use of the timber structure as a heating medium at the end of the buildings useful life."
Because Brandlehow Primary School is a listed building, all materials and design concepts had to be approved by English Heritage as well as the local authority. The choice of construction system made economical, experimental methods compatible with traditional materials.
As well as being a freelance writer and photographer, Don Barker works in an architecture firm in north London.
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