Burry Port Community Primary School

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 1980's infant school has been rationalised and renovated, solving a number of environmental defects and creating four large, secure, open-plan classrooms for Key-Stage 1, and a 30-place nursery, as well as multi-use space for teaching and messy play, breakout space, and covered outdoor areas.
Planning and Design

Planning and Design Process


The new-build aspects of the scheme are a triumph of innovation and sustainable construction, not to mention an exemplar use of Welsh timber, for which the new buildings are entirely constructed. 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 poses as a showcase for Wales’ abundance of low-grade softwood, Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce. The pod provides important break out space for the pupils, used for assemblies, performance and activity based learning.

Key Sustainability Points


The sustainable Passivhaus strategy that benefits the schools excellent building performance is met with an innovative low-carbon approach to design and construction. The Brettstapel 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 finish that complements the internal air quality.

Local materials

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.

Sustainable materials

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.


"This is the new home for the children of Burry Port – for their children, and probably their grandchildren too. 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

Design and Construction Information

Client: Carmarthenshire County Council

Architect: Architype & Carmarthenshire County Council. For further details of the design and delivery team, please contact the Architects.

Date of Completion: August 2015

Contract value: £3,800,000

Site Area: Internal area: 1993 m2

Cost/m2: £1,906

Funding: 21st Century Schools

Awards: RSAW Welsh Architecture Award 2016, RSAW Sustainability Award 2016, RSAW Project Architect of the Year 2016 (Andrew Tidy, CCC and George Mikurcik, Architype), shortlisted for Eisteddfod Gold Medal 2016, Structural Timber Awards 2016 – Highly Commended for Best Educational Project, Winner of the Sustain Wales Awards (Best Educational Project), Constructing Excellence Wales Awards – Highly Commended (innovation award), Shortlisted for the Construction News Awards