Meet the finalists

SCHOOLS UNDER £20 M
All Finalists2020 Winners

Finlay Black

Robertson Construction

Finlay Black’s knowledge, professionalism and championing of modern methods of construction brought this new-build school to a very successful completion. His proactive approach to the interpretation of the design and its construction was key to overall success. His lightweight cross-laminated timber-frame solution cleverly simplified the groundworks and resulted in a wholly prefabricated approach that included cladding, stairs and flooring. Not only did he deliver a speedier, safer and cheaper build, he also finessed the building’s long-term performance.

About the Project

Merkinch Primary School, Inverness

Construction of 14-classroom school, completed in 86 weeks.

Client: Highland Council

Contract: NEC 3, design and build

Value: £17m

Finlay Black’s introduction of modern methods of construction utterly transformed this school project. The planned steel-frame structure with precast concrete and lightweight steel infill panels gave way to a hybrid glulam and cross-laminated timber (CLT) frame and shell that promoted speed of build, cost savings and aesthetics.

The improved build might never have emerged without the need to find savings to hit the client’s budget. With planning permission already given for the school design, Finlay looked at the only major area left for value engineering: alternative methods of construction.

His lightweight CLT solution was a smart way of cutting the hefty costs of the groundworks. Combined with the line loadings imposed by CLT (as opposed to the point loads of a steel frame with concrete floors), it allowed a far more cost-efficient substructure than the deep trench fill foundations that would otherwise have been required in the non-bearing ground. Finlay moved the unstable ground from the footprint to the site perimeter to make up levels.

He took prefabrication to its logical conclusion on the two-storey building by designing lightweight hybrid steel and CLT stairs and supporting them off the frame, rather than going for standalone steel-and-concrete elements. He then introduced a mechanically fixed brickwork cladding that also hung off the frame. It not only eliminated the need for an independent structural steel frame to support the brickwork but also did away with the accompanying temporary works, access requirements, inconsistent quality, weather dependency and work at height.