Interact, Save, or Print Material Considerations Content

Compare materials

Best use of timber 2013 winner – Abbotsford Conservation & Visitors Building

Name of building
Abbotsford Conservation & Visitors Building
Date Completed
July 2012
Building type
Visitors Centre
Abbotsford, Melrose
LDN Architects
Abbotsford Trust
Main contractor

Border Construction Ltd


The Project

The Reception Building welcomes visitors to Abbotsford, the former home of Sir Walter Scott. Conceived as a modern gate lodge and sited at the eastern edge of Abbotsford’s outstanding designed landscape, it is built partly into the hillside to reduce its scale. It has a calm contemporary appearance and open plan layout, which contrasts with the highly decorated and hierarchical Scottish Baronial architecture of Abbotsford.

The building incorporates a reception, café, shop, toilets and interpretation facilities. The flat roof is finished with a sedum blanket minimising the impact of the building’s footprint and reducing rainwater run-off. Rainwater is stored in a reclamation tank and reused to flush the WCs. The building’s main spaces are naturally ventilated and a heat recovery air-handling unit serves the exhibition space. Underfloor heating in every space is provided using a ground source heat pump connected to boreholes under the carpark. As much natural light as possible has been allowed in to the building.

Use of Timber

Timber construction is used in every aspect of the Abbotsford Reception Building: in structural elements; the cladding and linings; and fixtures and fittings. The use of this natural material acknowledges the fact that timber is, arguably, the only truly sustainable construction material.

The building’s timber portal frame structure consists of laminated timber columns and beams. This frame supports cross-laminated timber panels that form the intermediate floor and roof structure. All structural timber is made of FSC-certified Finnish Spruce. The system allowed for off-site fabrication and was erected on site within approximately three weeks.

All timber in the building has been left with a natural finish. Open-jointed horizontal untreated European Oak boards clad all external solid walls. The wall construction, which features wood fibre insulation panels, is breathable both to help control the internal environment and to avoid pathologies often associated with water trapped in the fabric during construction. Oak is also used internally: as wall linings to finish ceilings and walls; in the feature staircase; and for internal fittings including the reception desk.

Edinburgh Traditional Building Festival 2021

Edinburgh Traditional Building Festival programme issued, with the organisers turning their eyes to the future, COP26, and the sustainability of traditional buildings in a dynamic

Why Your Material Choice Matters

As designers, we play a critical role in the material choice used in construction projects. These choices affect more than just the performance of a

Scroll to top