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Robertson Merkinch Primary School 03
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Merkinch Primary School and Family Centre

Project value: £16.7m

Social value creation: £5.8m

Considerate Constructors Award: Silver

Apprenticeships created: 19

School visits: 52

New adult employment opportunities: 31

NVQ qualifications completed: 27

It is very exciting to see the fantastic new school building. This will open up opportunities for the school, its staff and its young people, who it is great to see, show their appreciation for the hard work which has gone into its construction.”

Councillor John Finlayson

Chair of Education Committee | Highland Council

Utilising modern methods of construction to create a primary school that is fit for future generations and sets the benchmark for sustainable education facilities across Scotland.

Originally built in 1876, Merkinch Primary School in Inverness is housed in a listed Victorian building. Local population growth meant that the school was quickly outgrowing its surroundings and needed a new extension that would provide more space for its pupils as well as modern facilities that would enable the school to deliver a superior education.

Procured through the SCAPE SCOTLAND Construction framework for The Highland Council, the extension to the original Merkinch Primary School building includes 14 new classrooms, ancillary teaching area, three-room nursery, nurture rooms, a four court games hall, and an external multi-use games area.

The original school has served the local community in Inverness for over a century and the new state-of-the art facilities, designed with the well-being of pupils and staff at its core, are a welcome addition to the community.


As the school was originally built in 1876, it was essential that the extension was respectful to the original Victorian listed building and its locality. It was also important that the local community would benefit from the project in terms of enhancement to the environment and community. Being procured through the SCAPE SCOTLAND Construction framework, Robertson could ensure a sustainable legacy, whilst enriching the local economy across Inverness.

The school remained open and operational during the course of the works, with the pupils and teachers decanting from the school building and moving into temporary modular accommodation on the existing playing fields.

By working collaboratively with The Highland Council throughout the project, time and cost savings were enabled, as well as an improvement on the overall quality. The design was changed from a steel frame with precast concrete/lightweight steel infill panels to a hybrid glulam and cross-laminated timber (CLT) frame and shell. CLT provides continuous support, enabling Robertson to use mechanically fixed brick cladding to give the aesthetics of natural brick but with no risk from adverse weather. Additionally, by using CLT the building load on the ground was lightened, the build was quicker and it enabled a cellulose-based breathable external wall, improving the school's learning environment.

"With the structural challenges of a listed building, combined with the new Covid-19 operating procedures, the project team at Robertson and Highland Council deserve huge credit for their hard work and commitment in delivering this school to the highest standard. Moreover, it’s great to see the project not only being delivered by local supply chain partners who will continue to benefit from the ongoing increase in investment across the Scottish public sector but also creating a sustainable education facility.”
Mark Robinson | Group Chief Executive | SCAPE

Merkinch Primary School is the first primary school in the Highlands, and the largest school in Scotland, to be built using a Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) frame.

Delivered by Robertson during an 86-week construction programme, the new extension comprises of an L-shaped modern primary and nursery block, with courtyard, astro-turf pitch and multi-use games area. In total there are:

  • 14 new classrooms and ancillary teaching area;
  • a three-room nursery and nurture rooms;
  • a four-court games hall;
  • an external multi-use games area and playgrounds;
  • car parking and drop off zone;
  • and a remote energy centre and sprinkler tank.

The approach taken to construct the extension is not only more sustainable than traditional methods but will also positively impact the school’s learning environment and provide a modern school for future generations of pupils. Research suggests that pupils taught in timber classrooms were more relaxed, slept better and made less concentration errors than those who studied in classrooms built using traditional materials. The building includes exposed wood to provide an enhanced educational environment which will help Merkinch pupils to attain and achieve their full potential.

The new building is the first phase of the project and completed in November 2020. Phase two will include retaining and enhancing the listed Victorian building, which has housed the school for almost 150 years, to accommodate the school dining room and family centre for use by the wider Merkinch community. This is due to complete in April 2021.

The coronavirus pandemic has meant our young people, and the rest of our school community, have had to adjust to changes within our school when we returned from lockdown. The extension will not only provide us with extra space and facilities but will help us to focus on our school’s future during these challenging times.”

Jillian Kean

Head Teacher | Merkinch Primary School

We are proud to have completed the largest CLT frame school in Scotland, much of the timber has been left exposed and this has been proven to positively impact the learning environment. Merkinch is setting a benchmark for sustainable education facilities."

Frank Reid

Regional Managing Director | Robertson Construction


Social value generated


Apprenticeships created


Considerate Constructors Award

In collaboration with:

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SCAPE Scotland Construction

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