EURBAN’s journey began in 2003 with building schools and we have since helped deliver more than 150 education projects at every scale. The timing was perfect for CLT when it first came to the UK in 2003 because of the predominance of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme at that time. There was a gap in the market for this new product which could be used for both large and small projects.
It was good news for EURBAN that BSF was so influential because the first large projects to get noticed in the UK were schools such as dRMM’s Kingsdale School and Caldicott School, EURBAN’s, and the UK’s first ever CLT project. The BRE demonstration project, ‘Rethinking Schools’, further influenced the adoption of mass timber for the education sector. It enabled EURBAN to build a physical example that people could experience which set a precedent in the construction industry. The Rethinking Schools team consisted of Willmott Dixon, EURBAN, White Design, and Integral who all went on to spread the CLT message. Willmott Dixon and Integral were early adopters of CLT and we have continued to work with them on several further projects including some current.
After Rethinking Schools, education projects played a very important role for CLT and for EURBAN. A key project was Waingels Academy which, at that time and to this day, remains one of the largest mass timber school projects to be built in the UK. Such milestone projects were important for the emerging mass timber industry. The demand and money were there and that led to the adoption of CLT for schools, even though it wasn’t the cheapest option. With BSF and today’s DfE everyone is conscious of money, however schools tend to be quality driven because the client is also the owner as well as the end user. Schools are built as an investment for the future and not as a short term investment as may be the case with, say, housing.
In the early days, attention was often focused on flagship residential projects such as Murray Grove, Bridport House and Banyan Wharf, however it was the schools that were the mainstay of the early mass timber industry. An informal analysis by EURBAN founding director, Liam Dewar, about 10 years ago into which architecture practice has specified the most CLT revealed that it was Shepherd Robson with whom EURBAN have delivered many projects including Waingels Academy and LICA (Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Arts.) Sheppard Robson also designed the Open Academy in Norwich which was built by KLH. Schools were not always particularly visible, perhaps because they were designed by large architectural practices who saw them as bread and butter projects and therefore didn’t shout about them.
Schools have always been an important part of our business and we’ve had a good run with clients such as Hackney Council for whom we’ve designed, supplied and installed three large schools: Ickburgh PMLD SEN School, Mossbourne Academy Victoria Park and Mossbourne Academy Riverside. We have also delivered a number of schools for Hampshire County Council: Forest Education Centre, The Butts School, Oakridge School, North Baddesley School, St Francis School and we are currently working on another one with them. However it is Kier Eastern who have delivered the most CLT educational projects in the UK. With Kier we helped deliver UEA Crome Court student accommodation, Northstowe Education Campus, Histon Primary School, Hatton Park Primary School and Trumpington Park Primary School and we are working with them on another school currently, so schools continue to be a strong market for mass timber.