Roll out the barrel

Austin-Smith:Lord completes Scotland's newest and greenest distillery

by James 27 October 2010
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    The £40m project for Diageo is the first major distillery to be built in Scotland for 30 years. The building’s a modern interpretation of the traditional still house and maximises natural ventilation and daylight. The building has three key external forms which reflect the main internal functions; the timber-clad barrel structure, with a full-height glazed gable, showcasing the 14 stills; the central copper clad accommodation block containing the two big mash tuns and control centre; and the metal-clad tun rooms holding the 14 fermentation tanks, four of which are visible from the main road.

    Diageo planned the distillery to increase capacity by 10 million litres a year to match demand from growing worldwide markets. It also wanted to address several inefficiencies in the manufacturing process, so creating Scotland’s most environmentally friendly distillery, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of its predecessors by an innovative approach to waste and heat recovery, culminating in the building receiving a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ award.

    The architects worked closely with engineers AECOM and Diageo’s production team to accommodate the evolving process designs. The leftover barley grain – the draff – was used as a biomass fuel to produce steam for distillation, while a water reclamation plant looked to save approximately 300,000 cubic metres of water per year. Further energy was saved by supplying the malting plant situated in Burghead with surplus heat from the process. These new technologies needed to be incorporated, so a degree of flexibility was required to accommodate their ongoing development, whilst still allowing for a continuous construction process on-site to ensure compliance with the building and production deadlines.

    Excellent relations between the architects, client, engineers and the contractor ensured that the building was competed on time and on budget, with the first whisky pouring from its stills a meagre 24 months after the design team’s initial involvement.

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