Case study: Oban High School

Oban high school is an architecturally acclaimed and technically significant education project, forming part of a blueprint for the future development of schools and colleges in Scotland, which has been made possible using a package of high-performance cladding and roofing products from Tata Steel that both fulfill the design ambitions and withstand the physically challenging climate to which the buildings will be exposed.

Education buildings demand that project teams and their clients address a unique set of objectives which span not only functional, budgetary and safety constraints, but also considerations regarding a development’scontribution to the environment and the community. In the case of Scotland’s west coast and the islands, these challenges are further complicated by the often very harsh climate and what can be a severely restrictedwindow for the actual build process. The scale of the project is also very large with the Oban High School being developed in tandem with the new Campbeltown Grammar School on an existing site, where the original buildings had to remain fully occupied until completion. The multi-million project was taken forward by Argyll and Bute Council in partnership with Hub North Scotland Ltd. and the Scottish Futures Trust, through the Scottish Government’s Schools for the Future programme.

According to Ryder Architecture, the location and context for the project were critical: it is brought into sharp focus when working in the coastal regions and islands of northern Scotland. The landscape and coastline this territory covers were memorably described by Stuart MacDonald in the foreword to the ‘6,000 Miles’ exhibition (2003), part of the Scottish Government’s policy on architecture, as one that “shapes our identityand delineates our image of Scotland. It is a point of entry and departure. It is margin and edge. It differentiates us from our neighbours, culturally…. geographically”. Ryder went on to assert that this sense of uniqueness of place, climate, history and setting presents a significant challenge in the context of the SSF programme.

The practice described its projects within the SSF programme as lying in a wide arc at the very edge of not only Hub North Scotland territory, but also Europe itself: at Campbeltown, Oban, Wick and Lerwick.‘These places all have their own strong cultural and geographical identities, but also share significant commonalities which have shaped our architectural response. All are situated within the harsh coastal areas and all have significantly greater variation in topography than would be found on sites in the central region. ‘These broad similarities led us to adopt a simple but distinct approach to adapting the exemplar model in the coastal setting. By recognising the unique qualities and characteristics of place, the Scottish Futures Trust exemplar model is manipulated through a series of iterative steps, to provide a contextually appropriate design solution. These buildings must read as being modern, fit-for-purpose facilities.’ It is one of the key features to Tata Steel’s customer service, that there is an integrated supply chain stretching from specification and design support, through to colour selection advice and components, to delivery and site assistance, including training. The outward appearance of the adjoining school buildings is unified through the common specification by the architects of Tata Steel’s products including SAB-Pyramid profiles and Trisobuild® built-up systems, manufactured from Colorcoat Prisma® prefinished steel. The beauty of the SAB-Pyramid50/1000 (600-400) profiles, provided a solution where the points were very accurately aligned to emphasise the design. Significantly, in response to the design brief and the unusually aggressive climatic conditions, the profile uses double sided Colorcoat Prisma® with the colour Ephyra as the outer face, and Anthracite on the reverse. A double-sided product offers additional corrosion resistance and a longer working life for a single skin design, as well as another visual dimension in those marginal areas where the back of the cladding is visible. Additionally, over 1,100m2 of Tata Steel’s pre-finished steel was also supplied for flashings across the elevations to the two schools; offering a neutral textured background for each educational establishment’s signage.

The Director in charge for Ryder Architecture, Chris Malcolm, commented: “Aside from being an aggressive marine environment, one of the characteristics of the location on the western fringes of Scotland is that the quality of the light can change quite quickly, in combination with being very wet. So sometimes cladding can look very shiny, and then as the sky gets overcast – the way that light and shadow works becomes quite important. We therefore thought the impact of the cladding panel could be dramatic in terms of the way it affects your perception of the building with the weather conditions, while it also helps tie the building into the wider landscape. “It is not only the unique usage of colours prevalent in that area, but the way that a metallic finish highlights the changing quality of the sunlight; between morning, afternoon and at sunset. Then the open joint tobleroneshaped detail has been used to accentuate the verticality of the profile and the cladding pattern; creating a visual rhythm. The SAB-Pyramid profiles were excellent for reflecting the light.”The specialist sub-contractor awarded the cladding package for Oban High School, Newcastle-based Chemplas, is well experienced in the application of Tata Steel’s products.

Customer: Oban High School / Campbelltown Grammar SchoolArchitect: Ryder ArchitectsCladding: ChemplasSAB-profiel Products: SAB-Pyramid 50/1000  in doublesided Colorcoat Prisma® Ephyra/Anthracite (Oban High School: 3.100 m2, Campbelltown Grammar School: 2.000 m2) and 1.130 m2 flashings.