Burry Port Community Primary School

Carmarthenshire County Council

Project Outline

Conceived by the client, Carmarthenshire County Council, the pioneering scheme for Burry Port Community Primary School, brings together the towns once separate infant and junior schools on one central site, in a design that celebrates Welsh materials and embraces innovation.

Set over three principal buildings, the project is a mix of refurbishment and new-build. The prominent new-build aspects include the first Passivhaus school building in Wales, as well as a separate, Brettstapel constructed elliptical pod for multi-use purposes, which unites the new and old elements of the school.

The original infant school has been rationalised and renovated, solving a number of environmental defects and creating four large, secure, open-plan classrooms as well as multi-use space for teaching and messy play, breakout space, and covered outdoor areas.

On Site / Aug. ‘14
Completion / Aug. ‘15
Gross Internal Floor Area
1,993 sqm over 3 buildings
Construction Type
Timber Frame and Retrofit
Total / £3,800,000
Per sqm / £1,900

This is an extremely sensitive, very carefully considered scheme that focuses on health and well being and sets the bar higher for the schools of the future in Wales.

Chris Loyn, Chair of the RSAW Judges 2016
First Passivhaus school building in Wales

Materials & Methods of Construction

The new-build aspects of the scheme are a triumph of innovation and sustainable construction, not to mention an exemplar use of Welsh timber, which the new buildings are entirely constructed from.

In line with Passivhaus requirements, the honest, pared back form of the new junior years building is wrapped in continuous air-tight duvet layer from the foundations-up. To give a fresh and natural aesthetic, the envelope is clad in Welsh larch and topped with a contemporary zinc standing seam roof.

The elliptical pod building, constructed using the Brettstapel method, is one of the first examples of Brettstapel construction being used in the education sector in the UK. The technique makes use of Wales’ abundance of low-grade softwood, Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce.

We can't even begin to explain the difference this building has made to us - the children think it's very cool. The pupils love their new, eco-friendly classes they are light and spacious, providing an excellent environment for learning.

Alison Williams, Head Teacher

Sustainable Strategy

The sustainable Passivhaus strategy that underpins the new extension's excellent building performance is met with an innovative low-carbon approach to design and construction.

The Brettstapel system in particular is a great example of this, maximising the performance of low-grade softwood components allowing them to be used structurally whilst providing a natural, toxin-free interior that complements the interal air quality.

The Brettstapel process uses short lengths of softwood timber, held together with hardwood dowels that swell and tighten with exchanging moisture content. The result is a solid timber panel, providing a dual purposes as a load bearing wall or floor, and an exposed internal finish. In the case of the pod building, each panel forms a facet of the ellipse shape and provides a beautiful natural and healthy finish.

Renewable, low-tech construction techniques are utilised throughout the scheme in particular on the Welsh timber frame and façade. Besides the inherent excellent sustainable credentials, the two new buildings showcase the capabilities of Welsh timber and promote the material to the industry, with positive consequences to broaden the market for Welsh timber.

The eco-specification continues beyond the construction aspects of the scheme and is continued throughout the interior. Wood wool acoustic panels made from a mixture of pine, spruce and poplar wood fibre strands, bound with magnesite and treated with natural salt have been specified for the ceiling panels. Other materials have included recycled tyre matting in areas of heavy footfall and natural vegetable oil stains on interior ply finishes.

Architype Team

Project Partners

Carmarthenshire County Council
Joint Architects
Carmarthenshire Country Council
Mackley Davies Associates
Structural Engineers
Bingham Hall Partnership
M&E consultant
Troup Bywaters & Anders
Timber Frame
Cygnum Timber Frame
Main contractor
WRW Construction
ION Acoustics
Passivhaus Consultant
Elemental Solutions


  • RSAW Regional Award 2016
  • RSAW Project Architect Award 2016 – George Mikurcik & Andrew Tidy
  • RSAW Special Award for Sustainability 2016
  • Highly Commended for Best Educational Project at the Structural Timber Awards 2016
  • Shortlisted for the Welsh Gold Medal for Architecture
  • Constructing Excellence Wales Awards 2016: Highly Commended for the Innovation Award
  • Sustain Wales Awards 2016, Best Educational Building
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