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Scottish parliament building © Scottish Parliament

The Scottish parliament building symbolises an imaginative new phase for the government

Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, Edinburgh, UK

Start Date: August 1998 | Completion Date: October 2004

The new Scottish Parliament is a striking campus that is located in the heart of Edinburgh.

The setting complements the dramatic structure - the buildings appear to rise directly out of the landscape forming a striking new landmark for the city.

It was clear that architect Enric Miralles Benedetta Tagliebue (EMBT) would need innovative engineers to help create their vision for a new home for the Scottish parliament. So they turned to Arup.

The buildings, symbolising an imaginative new phase for the government, are characterised by an absence of repetition.

Defining the position of all structural elements to achieve this aim was a significant challenge. Other aspects to benefit from our innovative solutions include a cantilevered building and a uniquely clad facade.

Main buildings

The main buildings include a debating chamber which is an impressive space and Canongate Tower which stands to the side of the formal entrance to parliament. Assembly towers containing committee rooms are linked to the members foyer via a glazed roof of leaf-shaped panels on curved structural steel members.

Sleek appearance

About the Scottish Parliament

Total building area – 31 000m²

Designed to support 1180 people including press and caterers

The roof of the debating chamber is supported by trusses made from glue-laminated timber and stainless steel rods. Each node that connects the timber to stainless steel tie rods is individually detailed to give a sleek appearance that ties in with the overall structural vision.

We used in-house software to model the building in three dimensions. The final result is a unique building. It has no traditional shear walls or braced cores but instead relies on joint stiffness to stabilise it.

Structural challenge

A significant structural challenge was supporting the Canongate building. EMBT wanted the area beneath the first floor to be free of structure for half the plan area. The resulting cantilever spans some 20m from the reinforced concrete core to create an impressive, column-free entrance to the site.

Blast resistant

Security for the parliament buildings is an important part of the design. Arup Security Consulting provided expertise in blast resistant design to our facade specialists and the architect for the design and procurement of windows and various cladding elements including granite, slate, timber and pre-cast concrete, to reduce hazard to occupants in the event of a bomb blast.

Sustainable design

The site was previously occupied by a brewery and the use of ground water immediately seemed attractive as a means of building cooling.

We produced a feasibility study and hydrogeology report to assess the viability of this proposal and analyse the impact of any groundwater extraction on the surrounding area. This study also predicted the depth of the wells necessary to ensure an adequate yield and two new bore holes were sunk as part of our sustainable design for the new Scottish Parliament.

In addition to using the ground water for cooling it is also used in building services as grey water.

HM the Queen opened the Scottish parliament on 9 October 2004.





Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, Edinburgh

Project overview

Project team

- Facade Engineering

- Security Consulting

Arup projects

See also

Major milestone for Scottish Parliament building

Other Arup Links

Arup engineers 2005 Stirling Prize winner – Scottish Parliament Building - Global

Security consulting - Global

Sustainability services - Global

Internet links

Scottish parliament