The Highland Observatory represents the latest evolution of our designs and features many of the best features we have adopted over the years. Sited in the Scottish Highlands, a location with an unforgiving climate but incredible skies, this exceptional observatory utilises the finest materials, cutting edge technology and of course, our tried-and-tested design DNA.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the design is our use of top-grade (Grade I-III ‘unsorted’) Siberian Larch for both the cladding and the frame of the observatory. Vertical channel cladding emphasises the modern design, and is deliberately set back from, and framed by, the chunky glulam beams that form the structure. The two longest of these beams, at just under eight metres in length, run the full length of the structure and provide a solid, unjointed support for the rolling roof.
The roof itself is a traditional hipped roof design, with oversized rafters to cope with the high winds and snow-loading requirements of the location and additional ties to ensure stability under all conditions. The weight of the roof is kept to a minimum with our use of Envirotile, an elite polypropylene roof tile with the appearance of slate, market-leading weather performance and of course, very low weight of only 8kg per square metre. Despite this, the overall weight of this large rolling roof is just under three quarters of a ton – nonetheless easy to move by hand, and no problem for our electric roof motor which effortlessly opens and closes the roof at the touch of a button.
The observatory interior is finished with a high-performance matt-black paint, and features roomy corner cupboards for storage of equipment, eyepieces and binoculars. The telescope itself, a Celestron CGE Pro 1400HD, sits atop Pier-Tech Inc.’s incredible motorised pier – a height-adjustable pillar capable of lifting up to 1100lbs whilst maintaining excellent polar alignment.
A door, also finished in matt black, leads to the fully-insulated warm room – a generously proportioned but cosy space where our client can sit at a good sized desk to operate the telescope, or relax on a full-length day-bed with storage underneath. A large wardrobe (for snow suit), high shelf and bedside locker complete the roster of bespoke furniture we lovingly crafted from high-grade birch ply – all perfectly sized to make the most of the space, naturally.
Lighting throughout is LED-based, with red and white lights in both areas. The warm room lights – both white LED downlights and red LED accent lighting – are fully dimmable, as is the red light in the observatory itself. An outdoor light was also fitted (switchable from inside or from the house, with cabling provided for future exterior lighting requirements too). A full complement of power sockets in both rooms, including a USB charging socket provided at the bedside, complete the electrical specification.
Access to the observatory is provided via a set of generous decked steps – also constructed in Siberian Larch – with a solid handrail for safety. This observatory is also the first to feature our A+ rated external double-glazed window (a specification that originated in our new garden room designs) – in this case it is a french window that doubles as an emergency escape, externally coloured anthracite to blend with the slate-style roof tiles.
In addition to the usual photos of the finished observatory, we’ve included a few construction photos below for your interest: One shows the roof structure being put together outside our workshop to ensure everything would fit perfectly when we arrived on site (it did!) – you can see the hips and most of the rafters though we haven’t put in the ties at this stage. One is an early morning shot taken at 7am on the first day of the build – as the sun rose we were already building the floor sections from the timber that we had cut back at the workshop (it was a few hours later when the articulated lorry arrived with the wall panels, furniture and roof parts). Finally, there’s a night shot… the Highland Observatory was constructed in November, when there were only a few hours of daylight each day – so much of the work was carried out under our floodlights – we illuminated the site with 16,000 lumens of all-weather LED lighting to allow us to work a full day (and some days it was quite a bit more!) in order to finish the on-site part of the build in six days. On the left of this image, you can just see the corner of our marquee – an invaluable on-site “workshop” space used for storing and machining components that needed to be kept out of the rain. This last image was taken at about 5pm on the first day of the build – by the time we left site on the first day, the roof structure and membrane was on, and the structure essentially weathertight.