Planning granted for ‘first of its kind’ eco-education building in Scotland

Planning granted for 'first of its kind' eco-education building in Scotland

Artist's impression of the Future Institutes building

Dollar Academy has been granted planning permission from Clackmannanshire Council to build its pioneering Futures Institute, designed to provide a physical home for the school’s progressive educational programme, the Futures Institute at Dollar Academy (FIDA).

The domed building, which will sit just inside the main entrance to the school, has been designed with a focus on sustainability, embodying the core principles of the FIDA initiative.

Launched in May 2021 in collaboration with leading figures from industry and education, FIDA has placed Dollar Academy at the forefront of educational innovation in Scotland. To date, the initiative has offered over 550 young people across the country the opportunity to learn in a different way, by undertaking courses that are built on three core principles:

  • learners are required to design a solution to a real-world problem;
  • each course is rooted in one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals;
  • all content is co-created with experts from industry and/ or universities.

The building will allow FIDA’s existing offering, which primarily runs online and during weekends and school holidays, to develop and expand. In addition to Dollar Academy pupils, young people from schools across Scotland will also have access to the Futures Institute, free of charge.

The facility, designed to support the innovative teaching and learning practices inherent in FIDA courses, will provide a space for students to think, design, collaborate, make, prototype, test, present and perform; providing a connected and coherent learning experience.

Designed by world-renowned architect Andrew Whalley OBE, Chairman of international architecture practice Grimshaw, the Futures Institute building will deliver sector-leading teaching and learning environments, including maker spaces, a digital prototyping suite, a science lab and creative art spaces which will facilitate interdisciplinary learning.

Key advisors to the Scottish Government on the reform of Education Scotland and the Scottish Qualifications Association have cited the need for more interdisciplinary learning in schools that focusses on real world challenges in collaboration with industry and academia. As such, the Futures Institute is well placed to play a pivotal role in the future of Scottish education.

The design seeks to minimise embodied carbon through efficient, economic structural form and material selection. The use of concrete is minimised and the building’s enclosing walls are constructed with a glue laminated timber frame infilled with locally sourced stone in gabion frames. The overall enclosure is fabricated from a lightweight, glue laminated geodesic dome that is clad both with the latest generation of ETFE pillows and solid insulated panels with integrated photovoltaic panels. This roof can maximize passive solar gain throughout the year with full ventilation capabilities for summer.

Flooded with natural light, the interior is meant to capture the sense of being in a highly tempered outdoor space. The ground floor is centred on a large open space for projects and performances and is linked to the first floor by stepped auditorium seating constructed from timber. Workshops and laboratories line the perimeter with glazing providing transparency and openness. The first floor is constructed from cross-laminated timber with space for traditional and experimental gardens. A flexible, partitioned classroom structure spans the open void offering a multi-use landscaped roof terrace.

Grimshaw is a recognised pioneer of sustainable architecture and design, delivering projects including the Eden Project in Cornwall and most recently Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion as part of Expo Dubai 2020 – a net zero building integrating technology and nature to demonstrate a future regenerative environment.

Ian Munro, rector at Dollar Academy, said: “We are delighted that the Futures Institute has now received planning permission, marking another significant milestone for this ambitious project. The building will create a sector-leading teaching and learning space, where young people can work together and design solutions to real world problems in an inspiring environment. It is our hope that learners throughout Scotland will have the chance to undertake FIDA courses during their time at school.”

Andrew Whalley OBE, chairman of Grimshaw Architects said: “The Futures Institute building is an exemplar of sustainable architecture. The design aspects go beyond energy generation and integrating quality of light and natural ventilation; this building considers biodiversity, and its place in the broader landscape. The Futures Institute will empower and inspire the next generation to tackle the global problems, such as climate change, we now all face.”

With the majority of funding for the project now in place through investment and donations, it is hoped construction will begin shortly.

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