City Academy Norwich has been constructed under the Academies framework. Working closely with the contractor, we developed a steel and timber hybrid to combine the carbon benefits of timber construction with long-span open spaces. The estimated 3,000 tonnes equivalent carbon saved versus traditional construction is a tribute to Ramboll’s sustainable credentials.
The new-build academy has a single-storey entrance wing backed by a three-storey curved building. The hybrid construction provides the client with a flexible floor plate, adaptable for future uses by changing the partitions. The roof, floor and walls are of loadbearing cross-laminated timber (CLT) with a central steelwork spine to support the structure internally. Using 500mm deep CLT cassettes allowed us to increase the floor spans to 10m.
At the rear of the school, a full-height glazed atrium and performance space overlooks woods. It features a curving walkway supported on branched columns with hidden fixings that echo the trees outside. CLT design for the walkway included single panel width decks and balustrade panels that were pulled to curvature in situ. Elsewhere, CLT is exposed on soffits and stair cores.
Our comprehensive design service reduced risk and optimised programme — the superstructure was erected in only 17 weeks. We focused on structural design of the timber elements and worked collaboratively with the timber supply chain to reduce the overall timber volume to 3,078 cubic metres. The contractor made maximum use of prefabricated construction techniques, with service openings in the steel frame being precut in the factory to reduce the time of services installation and reap the benefit of early building watertightness.
ANC Awards 2013 Commended for architectural acoustics
High efficient façade
District heating scheme
Low-emitting materials and finishes
Sustainability has been a key concern in the project. The majority of the building is constructed using solid timber laminate, which has an extremely low embodied energy, and gives a high degree of air tightness and thermal insulation to the façade.
The energy needs of the building are largely supplied by a district CHP plant, and 250m2 of solar panels on the roof. These visible elements provide a dynamic teaching example to the students, demonstrating how energy use, construction and engineering can be brought together to achieve green results.
Since it was opened in 2012 the building has proved a huge success. It has fostered inspirational new teaching projects and community initiatives.
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Norfolk County Council
Building services engineer:
Green certification consultant:
NPS South East
BREEAM 2008 UK Education Excellent