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Abraham Darby Sports and Learning Community

Project Title: Abraham Darby Sports and Learning Community

Location: Telford, Shropshire

Wood Species and Products Used: European Spruce glulam, European larch (Redwood) glulam, European Spruce CLT, Canadian Western red cedar.
Building client/owner: Abraham Darby Academy

Architect: BDP

Structural Engineer:  BDP

Main Contractor/Builder: Kier Construction

Joinery Company: Constructional Timber (Manufacturers) Ltd

Wood Supplier: Hess Timber

Other services: MM Kaufmann, KLH

Project Description:

On a steep sloping site at the gateway to the Ironbridge World Heritage site at Telford, the Abraham Darby Sports and Learning Community project brings together a two form entry Primary School, a six form entry Academy, and a Community Sports and Leisure facility into a single co-located complex.

Using a consistent architectural language and palette of natural materials, the three buildings have been designed to evoke a sense of timeless ‘Englishness’ fit for their setting whilst expressing their individual identity and ethos within the conjoined complex. Timber is a key element within the material spectrum, and is used extensively across all buildings as both a cladding and a structural material.

The project embeds sustainable credentials through integrated architectural, engineering and landscape design. In line with client aspirations, energy efficiency, minimising primary energy consumption and reducing ongoing lifecycle costs were placed at the top of the agenda. The timber structure and external timber cladding are all FSC certified and in addition the large structural timber members act as carbon sinks. The carbon sequestered within the primary school structure alone is equivalent to approximately two years of CO2 emissions. The development was awarded BREEAM ˜Excellent”.

Western Red Cedar cladding features extensively throughout the development, whilst structurally, FSC Certified engineered timber is exploited throughout in the following areas:

Primary School:
Glulam load bearing frame to single storey “crescent” shaped learning house


  • Glulam grid-shell domed roof to the Academy heart-space
  • Cross laminated timber (CLT) panels over-boarding the dome structure
  • ˜Portico” main entrance canopy supported by circular glulam columns

Community Leisure Centre:
External feature glulam columns

Glulam load bearing frame to pool and sports halls

The design of the structural timber elements and connection details were all carefully crafted to meet with the aesthetic aspirations of the design team, whilst maintaining practicality for fabrication and erection; all helping maintain affordability.

Of particular design merit is the domed timber grid-shell roof to the Academy heart-space. The geometry of the grid-shell was initially established and subsequently iteratively refined through the use of parametric modelling software (Bentley GC) in conjunction with 3-dimensional stress simulation software (STAAD Pro). This innovative design iteration process delivered a 30% material saving over the bid-stage geometry, and saw the evolution of what was originally a geodesic geometrical form through to a lamella form, which distributed the compression forces through the grid-shell with greater efficiency.

The dome was later modelled in BIM (Bentley Structural), as was the entire project, and it was this same BIM model that was later exploited by the manufacturers (Constructional Timber) in developing the fabrication models and drawings.

The domed timber roof soars over the heart-space of the Academy with a span of 35 metres, and comprises 420 individual European Whitewood Glulam members and 127 galvanised steel nodes, and was assembled using a total of 5,060 galvanised bolts. The dome was overboarded with 60mm thick CLT timber panels.

Extensive use of timber in the design provided not only sustainable and practical solutions, but has contributed to a contemporary interpretation of a timeless classical aesthetic, conveying balance, proportion and harmony.