Norbord helps The Kelpies

Norbord’s SterlingOSB has been chosen for the construction of wall panels at the new visitor centre for the Kelpies, artist Andy Scott’s enormous steel horse-head sculptures near Falkirk, Scotland.

Construction of the £1.45m visitor centre started earlier in 2015 and is due for completion in the autumn. It will include a restaurant, retail area, visitor information and facilities and an audio-visual ‘experience’. Designed by Dundee architect, Nicol Russell Studios, the low-profile building is intended to blend seamlessly into the landscape, using grass mounds and profiled roof panels to ensure an uninterrupted view of the 30m tall, 300 tonne, Kelpie sculptures. The building comprises a steel framework with timber in-fill panels and is covered with a natural larch rainscreen cladding.

Timber frame construction usually involves the manufacture of panels by specialists off-site. But that is not the case on this project, says Alan Barton, project manager with main contractor Maxi Construction.

“We are making the panels up ourselves, rather than have them manufactured by a timber-frame company,” he says. Unlike modern timber frame, this design uses steel for the main structural elements and is therefore not ‘timber frame construction’ in the true sense.

The panels, which are made to close tolerances, comprise basic softwood frames incorporating thermal insulation and vapour membranes with SterlingOSB ‘skins’ on both sides to provide strength and stiffness.

On this project, SterlingOSB was specified by the project engineer, and Alan says that it is widely used on most of the projects he works on.

“It’s in nearly all timber frame systems and is widely used for roof sarking, especially here in Scotland,” he says.

Alan estimates that this project will require approximately 1,000 sq m of SterlingOSB for the 100m-long building.

“We’re using a lot of OSB on this project – I’m looking at a huge stack of it right now in the yard,” he adds.

Installation of the wall panels will be completed in June and the new centre will be clad and ready to hand over to the client in October, says Alan.

The Kelpies form the centrepiece of The Helix – a £43m parkland project designed to improve connections between the scattered communities around Falkirk.  As well as the sculptures, The Helix creates a new public green space, a kilometre of new canal and towpaths and a 26km cycle route. The project is run and will be maintained by Canals Scotland and Falkirk Council.