Ickburgh SEN School

PEFC certified cross laminated timber (CLT) has been used to build a ground-breaking specialist school for 150 pupils aged between 2-19 years with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) in the London Borough of Hackney. Ickburgh1

Designed by Avanti Architects and built by main contractor McLaren Construction, the school was delivered through Hackney Schools for the Future Limited (HSFL). The building consists of a three storey CLT superstructure made from PEFC certified Austrian spruce and pine sourced and manufactured by Stora Enso Building and Living.

The building is expected to achieve BREEAM Very Good and has been built on the site of the old Cardinal Pole School in Homerton. The CLT superstructure was engineered and installed by specialist timber engineers, Eurban whose structural solution has been designed to be robust enough to withstand accidental damage from movable specialist equipment.

Building with CLT provided a significant reduction in build time enabling the project to be delivered 20% faster and resulted in providing a 2% saving on cost against the project value. In addition to its speed and cost saving benefits, the structural spanning characteristics of CLT lent itself to the very cellular layout of a special needs school. As a PMLD School, Ickburgh has extremely bespoke issues and a system build type of school is unusual for this level of need. Whereas generally the process would be to design the building then specify the system, at Ickburgh the system was specified and the school built around it.

The new school was delivered through Hackney Schools for the Future Limited (HSFL), a partnership formed by London Borough of Hackney and Mouchel Babcock Education (MBE) in 2008. The remit of the joint venture is to deliver eleven Schools to a budget of £201m in three phases over an 8/9 year period. Wayne Riley of MBE explains: “The challenge was to provide this highly specialist facility whilst making significant savings on the original budget which had been established at the feasibility stage. CLT met this challenge by providing a significant reduction to the construction programme.”

Inside the school, the design embraces CLT’s natural qualities which give the building a feeling of richness and warmth. Each classroom space features the natural wood on its ceiling and one wall, and the School’s entrance along with the main hall and one wall within the circulation areas of each teaching cluster is also left exposed. 

The London Borough of Hackney currently leads the way in the UK on CLT construction. The Borough already boasts the first two multi-storey residential buildings in the world – Bridport House and The Stadthaus – still Europe's highest at eight and nine storeys respectively. Two schools in the Borough - Berger Primary School and Lauriston Primary School have also been built using CLT construction.