Courtesy Wood for Good:

Winner of the 2014 EAA Building of the Year Award, the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation is a major refurbishment of an 18th Century Old Royal High School at the University of Edinburgh.

The successful combination of heritage and sustainability has created an environment that fosters innovation, joint working and bold forward thinking.

About this project

The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation ECCI is a flagship teaching and business innovation hub for the knowledge, enterprise and skills required to create a low carbon economy. As such, the building’s own environmental performance is significant and it is the first refurbished building in the UK to receive the industry’s top BREEAM “Outstanding” award at design stage. Compared to the standard demolish-and-new build “sustainability” model, this represents a radical alternative.

The environmental concerns needed to be balanced with conservation issues, access and other user requirements. This was proved to be possible, by careful consideration, working with the historic fabric and providing a building which accommodates ‘current day’ user requirements. Significant co-ordination was required at design and construction stages to thread complex M+E installations through the existing masonry fabric and between an engineered timber primary structure, with typically large beam depths, without being detrimental to the clarity of the building’s character or design.

Recognising the importance of the integrity of the existing built environment, the building connects effortlessly to the surrounding urban fabric. The historic Surgeon’s Square (where Burke and Hare once delivered cadavers to Dr Knox’s Dissection Theatre) to the rear of the Centre, was recovered and transformed from a forgotten car park to a valuable urban focus. Routes were opened-up through it, connecting the Centre to the Parliament and general institutions and amenities of Edinburgh by foot.

Use of Timber

Wood fibre insulation was chosen for its breathability, thermal performance, and environmental performance. Insulation was needed for the old walls, new walls, and roof. For the primary structure cross-laminated timber was chosen. To achieve a consistent vertical orientation, 18mm CLT panels have been applied to the face of the beams. Unfinished CLT surfaces as well as painted joinery are building an ethstetic bridge between the old and the new building. Douglas Fir is used for stairs and acoustic ceiling. The existing timber sash windows were upgraded with double-glazed units.


BREEAM Outstanding
Edinburgh Architectural Association’s Building of the Year Award 2014; Shortlisted for Edinburgh Architectural Association’s Wood Award 2014
RICS Building Conservation Award 2014
Scottish Design Award for Education Building 2014
Scottish Property Awards – Commercial Buildings – Highly Commended
Civic Trust Awards – Regional Finalist
Retrofit Awards – Finalist

Further information

Architects Journal

BD online

National Building Technologies