CONSTRUCTION for Dollar Academy's ambitious Future's Institute building could begin as soon as this summer, if Clackmannanshire Council grants approval. 

The proposals are for a dome-shaped education building poised to become Scotland's first "Living Building" accredited structure. 

The building would give the Future's Institute programme a physical home in Dollar just outside the doors to the main Academy. 

Ian Munro, rector at Dollar Academy, said the team is hoping for a planning determination to be made in May. There's also a funding gap to bridge before the team can break ground. 

"It's starting to become very real," he explained. "It's way beyond the pipe dream stage.

"We've got most of the cash. So, if we close the funding gap, we'll be starting building this summer with a construction time of one year according to our top construction partners."

The academy's main building was designed in the early 1800s, and it is currently A-listed and set within the Dollar Conservation Area. 

The proposed building site is grassland adjacent to the main campus gate, next to the academy's sport pitch. 

Design proposals from Grimshaw Architects.

Design proposals from Grimshaw Architects.

The design consists of a "partially buried building within the mounded landscape" to provide a large flexible space to act as "a hub for FIDA activity – ranging from workshops and classes, to talks, assembly, events and performances".

The Future's Institute program has essentially opened Dollar Academy to pupils across Scotland.

And, if approved, the physical hub will give the Clackmannanshire community a further sense of ownership, according to rector Ian Munro. 

The 17 open access courses were designed with input from industry partners and academics. 

Mr Munro continued: "It's not a curriculum set around arbitrary facts set by an education minister or national body, it is real world challenges that people from industry or academia have come in and said: 'These are the problems we're working on, what are your ideas?'" 

The "next generation" curriculum is available to local students as well as others across Scotland – from Stornoway to Dumfries. 

"What started off as a tiny idea has blown up. I'm hugely passionate about it," Mr Munro added. 

FIDA hasn't received any public funding for the programme or for the proposed education building, but Mr Munro described Clackmannanshire Council as an "educational partner". 

"A big part of this project is the open access [element of the curriculum] and making sure the new building is a space in the local community that people can use and have ownership of at times. It's a community wealth building idea," he said. 

The community response has generally been supportive, according to Mr Munro but the proposals have also attracted a couple of formal objections. 

The proposed building site. (Image by Danyel VanReenen)

The proposed building site. (Image by Danyel VanReenen)

Grievances from the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland were published on the council planning portal on Thursday claiming "the building's centrality to the Conservation Area cannot be understated". 

The Heritage Society objected to the plans based on "inappropriate" design and location. 

It stated: "The imposition of this new structure diminishes the character and historic context of both an A-Listed building and the Dollar Conservation Area as a whole."

However, Historic Environment Scotland generally approved the proposals in a consultation response. 

They said the new facility would have "some impacts on views", especially from north of Mylne gates. However, the building would not impact the "most accessible and significant viewpoints". 

"The new building (and its landscaping), has the potential to be an interesting and inventive addition to Dollar Academy's multi-phase campus," it concluded.  "Our view is that the proposals do not raise historic environment issues of national significance and therefore we do not object." 

Clackmannanshire Council will consider the planning application and make a decision in due course.