Western Red Cedar, Sawn Scottish Grown Larch and American White Oak used for The Vine Trust project

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International charity boards its new floating centre for global citizenship after official opening by HRH the Princess Royal

When international volunteering charity the Vine Trust wanted a new place to call home, it didn’t just want to move into a conventional office block. Instead it decided to renovate a decommissioned Ministry of Defence fuel barge into a light, spacious, education centre and administrative base permanently moored at Forth Ports in Leith, Edinburgh.

To help turn this unique vision into a reality, the Vine Trust approached Glasgow-based Ingenium Archial Ltd to assist with the design, along with the sourcing of the sustainable and hard wearing materials needed to fit out the barge.

The renovation took 15 months to complete at a cost of £450,000. Many of the consultants and suppliers gave their time or materials either free of charge or at a reduced rate, so the tight budget could be met without compromising on the quality of the materials being used.

International Timber supplied most of the timber for the barge including; Western Red Cedar for the external vertical fins and horizontal banding, Sawn Scottish Grown Larch for the cladding and American White Oak for internal finishes.

Western Red Cedar was recommended for the external fittings because of its visual appeal and durability – something which was vital due to its location on the waterfront in Edinburgh. Also because of the position of the fins on the external walls of the internal structure, other timber products would be likely to warp and flex over time, while Western Red Cedar was less likely to experience these issues due to its composition.

However, to keep costs to a minimum, Sawn Scottish Gown Larch cladding was used for the external stage area as it is a lower cost alternative to Western Red Cedar but has similar properties. It also weathers down to a silver grey over time so there would be little distinction between the two products. For the interior of the barge American White Oak timber was used for several finishes because of its aesthetic appearance.

Neil Harper of Ingenium Archial Ltd, comments: “Timber was used as we wanted to soften the heavy industrial look of the existing barge by using a natural product for the newly created external structure.

“International Timber was able to provide the highest quality timber at a generously discounted rate, enabling us to proceed with the style of design we wanted for this project. They also gave us valuable advice on the most suitable timber products to use so we could confidently specify the right timber for the job.”

David Hogg, product manager at International Timber, said: “The Vine Trust is a fantastic organisation in Scotland and we’re very pleased to have been part of this project. The barge required materials that could withstand the challenging Edinburgh weather conditions as well as look appealing and we were able to provide these at a price that enabled the charity to achieve its vision.”

This is the first UK based barge fitted out by the Vine Trust and was officially opened by HRH the Princess Royal, who was a patron of the charity at the end of 2011. After officially opening the barge, the Princess was taken on a tour and was very impressed with the charity’s new facilities.

The barge won the 2011 Glasgow Institute of Architects Award for Educational Design, ahead of other larger prestigious projects in the region.

Two other ships have been converted previously and are used as floating medical centres in the Peruvian Amazon, with a third currently undergoing refit and conversion in Gibraltar. For more information on the work of Vine Trust see www.vinetrust.org

Vine Trust Barge at the Prince of Wales Dock in Leith, designed by Archial Architects.

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