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The Rockfield Centre

Oban, Argyll and Bute, Scotland

Client – Oban Communities Trust

Restored community hub provides sustainable vents for vital ventilation

Category B

Located centrally within the town of Oban, The Rockfield Centre is a complete and little-altered example of a Board School. Instigated by the 1872 Education Act and completed in 1894, the building is now Category B-listed. The school closed in 2007 and lay empty until a community campaign saved it from proposed demolition in 2014. Following extensive community engagement and testing of potential new uses, the building has now been converted into a multi-use, all-weather community hub comprising of a studio, work and events space.

At The Rockfield Centre, reinstatement of a pre-existing Victorian ventilation system has helped meet the brief of improving energy performance.

The passive ventilation system draws in fresh air to each room through adjustable vents in the external walls. As it warms, the air rises to ventilation grilles in the ceiling, and from there it is connected by a series of metal ducts to louvred terminals on the roof. The original roof vents had been removed in the past, but using old photographic records, newly created and beautifully detailed zinc roof ventilators were fabricated to replicate the historic design. The renewal of the system has not only improved energy performance of the building, but has also helped to meet the requirements of modern-day building standards. During the first year of full occupation, the system will be monitored by Historic Environment Scotland with the intention of providing real life data to inform other restoration projects.

With capital costs totalling £3 million, works were completed in summer 2020. The project has since made a gradual transition into fit-out and operation. The Architectural Heritage Fund provided grant funding of £51,137 over five years, which has helped ensure staffing capacity to drive the project forward. Alongside the AHF, project funders were as follows: The Big Lottery, Historic Environment Scotland, HIE, RCGF, Robertson Trust, William Grant Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Co-op Foundation, Hugh Fraser Foundation, and Scottish Government Town Centre Fund. In addition, there were significant contributions from Community Shares, legacies, donations, and other private trusts.

Since the pandemic we are reminded of the importance of ventilation; this project makes effective use of an historic system of passive ventilation which is functional, decorative, and most importantly, a renewable system helping to make the building sustainable.  


Andrew Pinkerton from Oban Communities Trust, said:

“The Rockfield Centre is a unique example of a community coming together to identify and address needs in their community while at the same time successfully saving a listed building on the Buildings at Risk register.  From the outset, our aim was to create a truly sustainable and adaptable facility, but the impact of the pandemic has highlighted the positive ways in which the original Victorian architecture can successfully contribute to what in today’s terms can be considered a healthy building.”


Alistair King from Page/Park, said:

“Alterations to Rockfield in the 1980’s, principally in a bid to cut down draughts and reduce heating costs, had resulted in a poor internal environment where pupils would have suffered from high levels of carbon dioxide and moisture in the stale air. By peeling back these layers of so called improvement, reinstating the original ventilation system and refurbishing the large sash windows to make them openable again, the capacity to introduce controllable fresh air has been enhanced. The new roof terminals have added further interest to Oban’s rich skyline as well as providing a low-tech heritage solution to the building’s contemporary use.”

The Rockfield Centre

Oban Communities Trust — The Rockfield Centre

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