University youngsters blaze green trail in new Rocking Horse Nursery

University youngsters blaze green trail in new Rocking Horse Nursery

Pre-school children of students and staff at the University of Aberdeen go green as they explore their very special, ground-breaking new nursery.

The new facility for the University’s Rocking Horse Nursery showcases the organisation’s commitment to providing a family-friendly campus community, while at the same time demonstrating leadership in sustainable and environmentally-friendly new infrastructure. 

The £2 million newly-completed building will be the first fully certified Passivhaus (Passive House) building in a Scottish university, and the first pre-school facility in Scotland to adopt this demanding energy-efficient design concept.  The Passivhaus design provides a high level of comfort for users, while consuming very little energy for heating or cooling. 

The Rocking Horse Nursery is expected to be the first building in Scotland to achieve the combination of Passivhaus accreditation and be awarded ‘Excellent’ in the BREEAM industry-standard ratings scheme.BREEAM is the world's foremost environmental assessment method and rating system for sustainable buildings. 

The nursery in the Powis Gate area off College Bounds will be a safe, nurturing and environmentally-conscious setting in which the youngest members of the University community can learn and have fun, indoors and outdoors. The building will be surrounded by landscaping, and excellent opportunities for outdoor activity, including a walled garden for the children to explore and enjoy. 

The building will cater for 78 children (the former nursery catered for 47) from small babies to five year olds. This increase in capacity will enable greater numbers of students and staff to benefit from first-rate childcare at the heart of the campus. The children reflect the growing international diversity of the University community, with over twenty different nationalities represented.  

For BMJ Architects and Burns Construction (Aberdeen), the University’s Passivhaus project has provided valuable expertise in what is now the fastest growing energy performance standard in the world, with 30,000 buildings constructed to this design to date, the majority since the year 2000. 

The Passivhaus standard was developed in Germany in the early 1990s by Professors Bo Adamson of Lund University, Sweden, and Wolfgang Feist of the Institute for Housing and the Environment in Germany.  The first dwellings to be completed were constructed in the German town of Darmstadt in 1991. 

Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen welcomed the ground-breaking new facility, saying: “We are extremely proud to offer our students and staff this wonderful new nursery for the youngest members of our community. This exciting new building and its facilities demonstrate in very practical terms three key underpinning values of this University: first and foremost that  our people are at the heart of our mission, whether student or staff. Second is our dedication to environmental sustainability and to demonstrating this in our campus and the way we run our business. And thirdly, of equal importance, is our commitment to innovation, and to being at the forefront of putting new ideas into practice for the benefit of our community.” 

Professor Roger Buckland of the University’s Business School and outgoing Chair of the Rocking Horse Nursery Board of Trustees, added: “The Rocking Horse Nursery has provided excellent childcare on the University campus since it opened in 1989.  The move to a new, purpose-built facility will allow us to expand the service we provide and to continue to offer the very best high-quality pre-school care for future generations of the University community’s youngest members.” 

Siobhan Davitt, Project Architect from BMJ Architects expressed the enthusiasm of the architects for this challenging project, saying: “Not only have we had the opportunity to work collaboratively with a great client but we have been given scope to integrate a sustainable building strategy we feel passionate about into a building that shares a similar ambitious ethos – that of encouraging children through play to explore their nursery and its environs, as autonomous beings.” 

Douglas Farmer, Director of Burns Construction (Aberdeen) Ltd praised the team effort, saying: “Burns Construction were delighted to be entrusted by the University to deliver this project to the very high standards expected in order to achieve Passivhaus accreditation. Team work was the order of the day as the learning curve for all parties involved was quite steep. It was obvious from the outset that the University had managed to select a team that could work together and our thanks go to all involved. It would be unfair to single out any one individual but special thanks must go to Graham Stuart and Siobhan Davitt of BMJ and Gareth Still of Talbots. Steve Young and Keith McPhee, Burns Snr Site Manager and Snr QS signed up for the principle of Passivhaus build from day one. Whilst they, and the rest of the team, had not encountered this style/method of build they soon familiarised themselves with the key elements required and as a result managed to achieve and indeed better the scoring criteria at the various build stages from air test to heat loss.”