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Glentress Feasibility Study

Moving through the Forest” How exciting to experience the forest from different levels: in the ground, on the ground and above the ground.

Starting in the ground with tree roots and the seeds fall then the building is on the ground as the trees grow and lastly buildings above the ground in the tree branches looking down on the forest experiencing the forest from a different view and being amongst nature in a very intense way.

“Maximum impact with minimum environmental harm”. Non toxic materials to be used. Technology is changing rapidly so all areas from reception through to offices must be capable of change during overall life of building. Adaptations in brief/budget or phased approach can be accommodated without losing the overall concept.

This site is complex. Constraints:-. Large change of level. Two existing domestic neighbours - watch noise, smells, loss of views, sunlight and privacy issues. Car parking for 250 cars either in 2 car parks or one. Screen planting required and a surface whereby the surface water drains into the ground.

Potential:- the site has an interesting change of level, elevation, great views, visible from the road, sheltered and good orientation.

Glentress - year round destination. Clients:- Visitors to Tweed Valley Forests/Bikers/Forestry Staff/Café staff/Shops staff/School children. Hub café & bike shop are commercial facilities. Crucial that their operational needs and concerns are addressed. Both may need to be kept operating until the new building is ready. Low maintenance and running costs desirable. Ratio1: 6: 200/construction: maintenance: running costs.

The essence of Glentress is that it is a border landscape, has smooth rolling hills, light & shade, is very green and very lush. There is a gentleness in the landscape compared with the Highlands and other areas of Scotland. There is a lack of rock, browns and greens & yellows in the hillside. The timber is evident everywhere you look and this has led to one of the ideas of a tree within the building, through that we would like to use best practice use of timber. Timber is very energy efficient and better for the environment than using a steel structure.

There is a delight in the Borders and we hope that this delight would get converted into the design. The freshness and vitality and cohesion we hope would be expressed throughout the building. William Gilllies, a painter we much admired, painted the borders for many years.

Nature Centre: The nature centre could be located here or in the forest. Advantages of location adjacent to visitor facilities: Reduces the need for additional toilets. The centre could be used as an orientation centre for the public for information about the other Tweed Valley Forests and so disperse people elsewhere. The nature centre could also be used by local clubs or for children’s parties, with food supplied by the café.

Energy. Orientation to maximize the solar gains. Heat pumps (coefficient of 5 so for every 1KW of energy you input you output 5KW, only paying for the 1KW). A heat pump could be located under landscape or car park. A woodchip burner would provide the back up biomass heating. Shading to the south and southwest elevations. Insulation levels will be used in excess of the building regulations. Daylight will be optimized- natural light changes and in so doing links people back to outside and the passage of time. Changing patterns of light create movement within the building. Passive ventilation and cooling. With global warming our summers will become warmer. We can expect 1 day per year at 35degrees centigrade by 2050. (Within the life span of this building). Winters will be wetter therefore waterproofing and flooding will be general issues for all future buildings.

Waste: Often we have used a client’s waste product within the construction of their building. Green thinning could be used to construct shelters within the forest. Water collected from washing muddy bikes would be collected, filtered and reused. Water would be collected from gutters and rainwater pipes. Vegetable waste from the café could be composted. Reed beds would be investigated for filtering sewage out through a series of reed beds - (Odourless), before being discharged clean into the burn. Perhaps some of the buildings being demolished could be re-used. At most basic level materials could be crushed for infill. There may be things that can be re-used to minimize the waste being transported off site and then buried elsewhere as landfill. The advantage is that you are dealing with your waste on site.

Structure: It is hoped that home grown Douglas fir timber will be used as the structural members, promoting the use of Scottish timber. Timber utilises less energy in its overall life than steel. Dallman Johnstone has experience of using Scottish structural timber and green thinning. Different timbers will be used within the building. Functionally we have made our own interpretation of the way the buildings will be used however, should we have misinterpreted the client preferences, changes are easy to make and will not affect the integrity of the concepts.

If you look at the shape of the buildings in the countryside, the shape of these buildings has evolved through a period of time to suit the situation and their function. Long rectangular plans were representative of older farms and barns, in the countryside. They started off in a long rectangular line and later on they put buildings at 90 degrees, perhaps for convenience, perhaps to do with the shape of the ground, perhaps just to protect from the wind. This evolved into a courtyard shape and these courtyard shapes became more complex as the size of the building increased. Generally the building originated from the materials around and the length of the timber size of stone would have influenced the size of the buildings. Although this seems a very simple shape, other elements got added in to increase the delight & joy.

In rural areas the shape of the roof is very important as the roof becomes more dominant in the countryside especially when set against nature, so the roof form, shape connections set in the countryside are very important. It is a rural area and if not it has to reflect its setting. We took the idea of a steading and based the dimension of the element on those found in the countryside which was dependant on the length of the timber. 

Imagery must be rural. Buildings in the countryside led to the steading precedent with the rolling hills and trees providing the inspiration which formed the basis of the ‘element’ - a curved grass roof and timber ‘tree’ structure.  This evolved into 10 different layouts which seemed to be divided into four types, individual buildings (buildings in the landscape linked by a roof); layered core (central core with areas around it forming layers of building like an onion); linear (buildings within the landscape but yet functioning as integrated); and courtyard (the buildings enclosing landscape). We chose 3 types to show in more detail: courtyard which we visualise with a modern, glazed reception; a large building composed of three rows of ‘elements’ with glazed circulation on one level; and a two storey building built into the contours of the hillside. ‘Elements’ can expand or contract. Buildings can be single storey, one and a half storeys or two storeys. The exterior will use timber cladding and glazing in a range of options.

In terms of the green issues the building has to show sustainable ways, it has to be a healthy building and avoid toxins and suggest the timber is kiln dried and doesn’t use preservatives. There is an option to have a grass roof. One of the advantages of having a grass roof is that it is quite dense and this helps to conserve heat throughout the day to give off the heat at a time when the building is not so warm, acting like a storage heater. 

Option A Is a group of little buildings linked by the reception area so that you can either having people coming into the reception area and then going on to the different functions or you can have an external access to those if you wish. We see the actual reception area as being totally glazed with bright colours so it acts as a magnet. The way that the buildings are arranged forms two courtyards & one perhaps be more for servicing & the other south facing more to enjoy the views, sit out, and relaxation area. The bike shop/café can remain fully operational whilst this building is constructed alternatively with this arrangement we could have the bike shop refurbished to save costs rather than having it built underneath the café. If we have the building two storey there is wheel lift proposed to link the café & bike shop which we will show you in a later scheme. The café & terrace facing south & west this option has quite good expansion possibilities and the nature centre can be located here or in the forest. Phasing if there is inadequate funds to do everything at the beginning, then this option would allow for a phased development very easily. There is good access for the service vehicles and we have enhanced the privacy of the neighbours by screen planting and locating the planting and locating the building at the top corner of the site away from their property . There are good linkages between the different areas and there is a good separation between the busy & quiet areas. This is a very workable solution.

Option B The bike shop & café can remain open during construction. Alternatively the bike bike shop could be refurbished to save costs. The café & terrace facing south & west this option has quite good expansion possibilities. There is potential for phased development, again the nature centre could be located in the forest. There is good access for the service vehicles and privacy of the neighbours by screen planting and locating the planting and locating the building. There are good linkages between the different areas. This is an interesting solution whereby there are three rows of accommodation linked by glazed circulation areas, so people can go into reception from there onto either the shop or circulation areas which would be very pleasant, light airy spaces with lots of natural light streaming in. It is connecting much more as one building but with sub-division, this allows for a large area of car parking with an in & an out entrance so this would help with access. This option maximises the amount of car parking available on the site. 

Option C With this option we are using the actual hillside and creating a building on 2 levels:- the shop, bike shop, reception and offices are on the upper level and the nature centre, toilets & café open out on to the grass & south facing area.  The building is earth sheltered, built in the contours of the hillside and people flow through the building. As a bit of fun we envisage a wheel lift to link two levels together, this has expansion possibilities on both levels the nature centre again could be relocated with in the forest and there is good access for service vehicles the neighbours have privacy and there is separation of the busy & quiet areas. We have allowed more open space here & allowed car parking to the north of the site and with play area & interpretation area to the south of the site. We have allowed in & out access to the car park at the one place. 


  • Use of passive solar features where possible through orientation and window layout
  • High levels of insulation (U-values of 0.2 watts/m² C in roof, walls and floors)
  • Use of low energy light bulbs
  • Triple glazing (U=1.65 watts/m² C)
  • Use of cellulose insulation (made from recycled paper)
  • Non-toxic organic paints and wood preservatives throughout
  • Composite boarding manufactured without the use toxic glues or resins
  • Locally grown and harvested timber from managed forests: Douglas Fir Structure, Larch cladding, Woodchip combined heat & power plant.
  • Local stone for skirting, patios and pathways
  • Grass Roofing
  • ‘breathing wall’ construction with a controlled exchange of air and vapour
  • Isolating electrical circuits to reduce electromagnetic field stress
  • Water conservation (showers, low-flush toilets and self-closing taps)
  • Collection and recycling of rainwater for bike wash
  • Simple timber frame construction and detailing suitable for local labour & skills
  • Sewage disposal via reed beds
  • Earth shelter
  • Heat pump – ground source below car park or landscape

Album | by Dr. Radut