Futures Institute at the Dollar Academy   Dollar, Clackmannanshire, Scotland

Grimshaw has revealed designs for the Futures Institute at Dollar Academy (FIDA) in Scotland, UK, a permanent home for the Institute which will be delivered to receive the country’s first Living Building certification.

FIDA was launched in May 2021 to tackle three fundamental challenges in education ― providing equitable access and closing the poverty related attainment gap; finding compelling alternatives to traditional teaching and exam systems; and addressing sustainability. The initiative provides young people across Scotland with unique opportunities to undertake real-world challenges founded on the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. These take the form of workshops, skills-based courses, design challenges and competitions, all of which are offered either in person and/or via an online platform to enable the widest possible participation.

“Dollar Academy has always promoted the transformative power of education, and this idea is at the very heart of FIDA,” ― says Ian Munro, Rector at Dollar Academy, “FIDA’s free online provision and in-person workshops have allowed us to further develop our existing bursary provision in a modern and scalable way to children across the country, and beyond.”Situated at the southern end of the Dollar Academy campus, FIDA occupies a site within view of the 1819 Grade A historic building by Playfair from which the school grew. Accessed by a network of pathways and botanical gardens reinstated from a previous nineteenth century plan, the Institute’s biophilic form lies immersed in a working landscape. Heavily planted terraces, berms ponds and swales support the building’s water and waste needs, providing an invaluable educational resource and an inspirational recreational environment.

The building has been designed at every step to meet the criteria set out in the Living Building Challenge set forth by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), imagining a building that is beautiful and efficient, but in balance with our planet and its population.

The design approach seeks to minimise embodied carbon through efficient, economic structural form and careful material selection. The only use of concrete is in the foundation. The buildings enclosing walls are constructed with a glue laminated timber frame infilled with locally sourced stone in gabion frames.

The overall enclosure is fabricated from a lightweight, glue laminated geodesic dome that is clad both with the latest generation of insulated ETFE pillows and solid insulated panes with photovoltaic panels. This roof can maximize passive solar gain throughout the year with full ventilation capabilities for summer.

Flooded with natural light, the interior is meant to capture the sense of being in a highly tempered outdoor space. The ground floor is cantered on a large open space for projects and performances and is linked to the first floor by stepped auditorium seating constructed from timber.

Workshops and laboratories line the perimeter with glazing providing transparency and openness. The first floor is constructed from cross-laminated timber with space for traditional and experimental gardens. A flexible, partitioned classroom structure spans the open void offering a multi-use landscaped roof terrace.

The building has been designed at every step to meet the criteria set out in the Living Building Challenge set forth by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), imagining a building that is beautiful and efficient, but in balance with our planet and its population.

Professor Ken Muir, who was commissioned by Scottish Government to provide a report on education reform, said, "FIDA’s bold approach to education places the student experience at the centre, providing critical opportunities to engage with industry and stakeholders beyond the classroom. This aligns closely with some of the recommendations I made in my report to Scottish Government on a future vision for Scottish education and I am highly impressed with what the initiative aims to do.”

FIDA is also set to be a driver for the local economy and has established a new partnership with Scotland’s International Environment Centre, Clacks Council and Stirling University. With these partners, FIDA is exploring how a sustainable business accelerator could take the ideas generated by young people and turn them into reality, fostering entrepreneurism and empowerment.

“Dollar Academy has a long history of encouraging students to explore the arts which of course fuels the imagination and creative problem solving. It’s now leading the way with a paradigm shift in learning, to be shared as an open platform resource. Such an initiative requires an equally fresh approach to its future centre, with an architecture that will support team working, collaboration and exploring new creative sustainable solutions that will empower and inspire the next generation to tackle the planetary problems we now all face.”

Andrew Whalley, Chairman of Grimshaw and Dollar Academy alum

Location
Dollar, Clackmannanshire, Scotland

Project Type
Education →

Status
Design

Year
2026