Why We Use Cedar For Our Outdoor Classrooms

A lot of our outdoor classrooms and school classroom buildings feature cedar as the principal default timber or as external cladding on our timber framed buildings. And there are some very good reasons for this from a school’s point of view & perspective. We list below some of cedar’s principal qualities and why it is of a benefit therefore within a school environment.

Western Red Cedar is a well accepted softwood timber from British Columbia in Canada, renowned for its beautiful appearance, its ability to last for many years without maintenance and its acoustical and warmth insulation properties. Slow growing and naturally durable, it is the product of choice amongst architects and recognised worldwide as being the ideal material for residential and commercial buildings. We buy cedar in container load quantities, direct from the sawmills of British Columbia, and as a result we are able to pass on to our customers the cost benefit of the savings that we can achieve.

Decay Resistance

One of its most well-known and valuable characteristics is its natural high resistance to decay. Cedar has its own built-in preservatives known as thujaplicins, which enable cedar to last for many years and under most conditions. Unlike most other softwoods, it requires no artificial treatment  such as tanalith and is therefore one of the most durable coniferous species.

This is the reason we are able to offer an extended 15 year guarantee against timber rot, decay and degradation on our cedar products.

Natural Insulator

Cedar has a low density value which not only makes it an easy wood to work with but also it massively enhances its natural insulation value. Timbers with a low density value typically have the highest insulation properties and values because the cavities within the wood fill with air – and air is one the best known thermal insulators. Timber is a natural insulator anyway (hence the reason why people in northern Scandinavia all live in log cabins for example!) but cedar stands out as being one of the best and is way better than brick, concrete or steel. So this means reduced running costs for a school. And remember insulation is there for two reasons – to keep in the heat and to keep out the heat so the building is kept cool during the hot summer months and warm when winter comes.


It has a very low shrinkage factor which means that it has a high resistance to warping, twisting and checking which can be found amongst other softwood timbers. And it has high acoustical properties which means it can dampen vibrations.

Minimal Maintenance

From the point of view of degradation or rot, no treatment is required. From the point of view of colour change, cedar, like all other timbers, reacts to strong direct sunlight. Either schools can leave it and within two or three years, the cedar will turn from being a brown/red colour to a more mature silver/grey. Alternatively, cedar oil will maintain the original colour for a while but this is purely an aesthetic choice to make. But for those schools wanting to preserve the cedar tint for a longer period of time, then we recommend the use of Sikkens Novatech wood treatment. All our buildings are treated with this preservative and it is recommended that it be re-applied every 4 years or so a simple and it is an inexpensive application.


Cedar, like the majority of timbers, leaves a very small environmental footprint. It grows naturally and therefore produces less waste. It also uses less energy compared to other materials. And a major factor is that wood absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere thereby reducing the world’s carbon emissions.

For further details on the benefits of using cedar, please visit the website given below:


The Hideout House Company Ltd

Tel: 01865 858982 or email: info@hideouthouse.com


A Unique Solution for a Temporary Mobile Classroom

We were recently approached with an interesting enquiry from the head teacher of a primary school with a nursery provision. Basically they wanted…or needed…some extra space to be used for a whole host of reasons – namely break out sessions, nurture room, outdoor learning, extra space for the 2 year olds for the nursery and last but not least as a community room. But they didn’t need anything too big, it had to be insulated as they wanted to use it all year round, heating and lighting requirements and it had to have a WC/washbasin facility too as it would be used out of school hours.

Oh and one last item on the wish list, it had to be capable of easily being removed in a couple of years time as the school was potentially going to be relocated! Quite a challenging list I think you will agree.

But luckily we have the ideal solution. We have another division in our business which deals with the leisure market and one of our most popular products we sell is a mini lodge which is essentially a pre-manufactured unit and is used as guest sleeping accommodation and usually comes complete with an en-suite and kitchen area. As it is used for these purposes, it is fully insulated throughout and has an electrical pack which includes lighting, heating and power sockets. And it measures 7m x 3.6m which just happens to be the size the above school were interested in. And as it is built to conform to the definition of a caravan, it can easily be moved or removed at a later date.

So all we had to do was knock out the kitchen area and shower and bingo, the school had the ideal solution to their problem. The building is also clad in natural cedar and has an attractive cedar shingle tile roof which means that it is incredibly low maintenance and will last a long time.

And another huge advantage to the school is that, assuming a base is down with services already running out to site (electricity, water and foul drainage), you can be up and running within a week – as opposed to a traditional on-site build time of 3-4 weeks with the involvement of numerous tradesmen coming and going.

For further information, please contact the Hideout House Company on 01865 858982 or email: info@hideouthouse.com



Planning Permission and Building Regs for Outdoor Classrooms

We are constantly asked as to whether outdoor classrooms require planning permission and if they are also subject to building regulation approval. Always a tricky subject to have a 100% definitive answer but there are certain guidelines to work to. I will list these below:

Planning Permission – the majority of our outdoor classroom installations have been installed at schools without the need for planning permission as they fall under what is called Permitted Development Rights (PDR). And the below are the criteria for what constitutes permitted development:

By virtue of Part 7 Class M of the Town & Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015 the relevant provisions can be summarised as follows:-

The erection, extension or alteration of a school is permitted development provided that:-

(a) the cumulative gross floor space of any buildings erected, extended or altered would ​not ​exceed—

(i)25% of the gross floor space of the original school, college, university or hospital buildings; or

(ii)100 square metres,

whichever is the lesser;

(b) ​no ​part of the development would be within 5 metres of a boundary of the curtilage of the premises;

(c) ​no​ land used as a playing field at any time in the 5 years before the development commenced and remaining in this use​,​ could no longer be so usedas the result of the development​;

(d)the height of any new building erected would ​not ​exceed 5 metres;

(e)the height of the building as extended or altered would not​ exceed—

(i)if within 10 metres of a boundary of the curtilage of the premises, 5 metres; or

(ii)in all other cases, the height of the building being extended or altered;

(f)the development is not within the curtilage of a listed building;

But I do reiterate that we, as a company, are not planning consultants and we would always advise schools to check first with their local planning authority as to whether planning is required. A lot of planning authorities nowadays offer a “pre-app” service whereby you pay a nominal fee to the authority for their learned opinion before filing a full planning application.

Building Regulations – if an outdoor classroom building is less than 30m2, has no sleeping accommodation, is wholly detached from the main school building and is in excess of 1m from the boundary, then it is exempt from notification to the local authority. However, all good suppliers/manufacturers should follow the guidance in building regulations to ensure structural stability, adequate ventilation, safety glass is used where applicable, prevention from moisture ingress and a school should also ensure that the building is included in the school’s fire management plan.

For further information please contact the Hideout House Company on 01865 858982 or email: info@hideouthouse.com





Yurts vs Outdoor Classrooms

5m Hideout House outdoor classroom


I have been to a few schools recently where they have been looking for some sort of structure for an outdoor learning or forest school provision. So could be an outdoor classroom, shelter, early years provision, reading hut, break out or nurture room etc

And the school has been considering yurts into their overall mix of choices. I thought that it would be a good idea therefore in this blog to put together some facts as to the advantages a timber structure has over a yurt as we have quite a bit of experience of yurts due to the leisure side of our business where they are used for accommodation purposes on glamping (posh camping) sites.

Firstly, a school needs to weigh up as to what sort of longevity they are looking for with their need for an outdoor provision because essentially yurts are very big tents. The canvas exterior is hung around trellis side panels and supporting roof poles with a plastic sheet for a roof light to let in some sort of light from above.

Insulation (if supplied) in these yurts is very limited and so this will also limit the time you can use it for only certain times of the year. I know this personally because I stayed in one on a glamping site in September and even then it was extremely cold at night. The canvas needs constant maintenance, tightening and cleaning so that is another stretch on resources and time.

There is very little natural light as well – the only light comes from the roof light or the glazed panel in the front access door – so they are quite dark and dingy inside which I would not have thought is terribly conducive to positive learning/teaching outcomes. Condensation can also be a problem so sometimes they can feel quite damp inside – one nursery school I recently visited said that they could no longer use their yurt due the fact that the children were suffering from too many colds as a result of these conditions.

Yurts are not that cheap either once you factor in delivery and installation and a base for them to sit upon.

And so here’s the pitch for our outdoor classrooms – they are solid structures manufactured out of high quality cedar timber so they will last for a long time – in fact we offer a 15 year guarantee on our cedar buildings against timber degradation, rot and decay; cedar actually has one of the most natural insulating properties for wood but we can also offer ecotherm insulation to the walls, floor and roof to ensure that the building can easily be used all year round…..and no condensation build up either; we can also offer an atrium roof to allow lots of natural daylight in from above but you can also have as much glazing as you like to the upper wall panels – so they will always be light and airy inside; they require little or no on-going maintenance at all which is another benefit of using cedar; we will undertake all of the installation work so no need for the school or site manager to get involved at all; and we also think they are a lot nicer to look at too!

For further information on our outdoor classrooms and shelter, please call on 01865 858982 or email: info@hideouthouse.com


Aviva Community Trust Grant

We have just been made aware of a new grant from the Aviva Community Trust which schools could be eligible to apply for.

You can apply for quite a bit of money (up to £25K) and having looked at how you enter (they have some very good and easy to use instructional videos on their website of how to apply, how best to apply, how to put an accompanying video together on a smart phone etc), it looks quite straightforward. It looks like it operates a little bit like Tesco’s Bags of Help award i.e. you apply, put your best foot forward as to why your project is important and backed up with photos and video etc and then get in as many votes as you can from the local community. Whoever gets the most votes seems to go before a final judging panel who decide as to who gets what.
It appears that schools with an income of £1m and below can apply (although like all grants they are wanting to support projects which benefit the wider community as well as your school). But this is something which your school could get its PTA behind as well to put forward your bid and drum up a lot of local support.
But there is a deadline date of 10th October to apply!
Worth doing though I think as these grants don’t come around that often but please undertake your own more detailed research on this as I have really only just looked at their website.
Here is the link:

What Type of Classroom Building Do You Require for Your School?

We have quite a few phone calls from schools requesting information on a classroom building and before I can even start to give any advice or indication on price, I have found that there are about half a dozen questions I need to ask back before I can do this!

It is quite a big subject matter (and therefore product range) so it is worth just trying to go through the various options in this blog post.

The first question of course is to ascertain what are you wanting to use the classroom building for. At one end of the scale if you like, schools are running out of classroom space and typically need to have a new classroom provision to cater for a class (or maybe two) in an independent building which has enough m2 teaching floor space (in line with Ofsted requirements) and usually also has a couple of WCs, a kitchenette facility, a lobby/cloakroom and a store room. These buildings can either come as a pre-manufactured mobile classroom unit where they are delivered to site on the back of a low loader truck and are then either winched or craned into final position. A pre-prepared base will already be down in this instance as will all the connection of services (water, electricity, foul drainage etc). The advantage of having a mobile classroom is that the time on site is minimal for the school – typically a week – so very little inconvenience for the school staff and children and their working term.

Or if access is a real issue (read problem!), then it is possible to erect these buildings on site. The building is exactly the same as the mobile version but the on-site times are a lot longer as the build programme starts from ground up as it were. Both type of buildings will conform fully to building regulations with the adequate insulation properties in place.

Moving down the scale, a school may want to use their classroom building just for occasional use per day (say a couple of hours) as an outdoor learning resource or maybe as a break-out “nurture” room for special one to one tuition with pupils who have special educational needs. These enclosed outdoor classrooms tend to be below 30m2, are fully enclosed with either solid infill panels and upper glazing panels (and if needs be can be insulated too) but they rarely have in WCs and internal partitioning to form any internal rooms. This is because space is somewhat limited and all the floor space tends to be used for the teaching/learning area. These buildings come in all shapes and sizes but the most popular are rectangular and octagonal.

And then there are the very popular open-sided, gazebo type outdoor classrooms which are used for outdoor classroom learning for short periods every day. Or they can be used as parent waiting shelters and as a shelter from the elements. Again, they are available in many shapes and sizes but certainly in this case, the octagonal version is the most common. The Hideout House Company offer a whole range of outdoor classrooms with some interesting options.

I should really mention that for all of the above, it is possible to add in an eco element to these classroom buildings. This can be done by having living sedum roofs (which attract bio-diversity, absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and have good natural insulating properties), water butt and roof guttering systems (for rainwater harvesting), educational mini wind turbine and solar panels to create renewable energy and even have lights which can be powered by pedal power on special dynamo bikes!

The good news is that we can offer all of the above to your school! And we can also offer advice on funding and leasing options

For further information, please contact the Hideout House Company on 01865 858982 or email info@hideouthouse.com

enclosed outdoor classroom

Amphitheatre Seating Project for North London School

amphitheatre seating

amphitheatre seating

We were approached earlier in the year by a school in North East London who were wanting to encourage their pupils to take their outdoor lessons and performances outside. The brief was fairly straight forward – it had to easily blend in with its immediate environment, not be too “show-y”, had to cater for a class of 30 children and could easily withstand whatever the elements would throw at it!

The area the school had allocated to this outdoor amphitheatre project was fairly tight  – so hence the reason an amphitheatre seating arrangement was chosen as we designed it into a semi-circular format to make the most of the space available. We were installing onto a non-level grassed area by the side of the school’s hall so in order to blend naturally into this environment, we used artificial grass for seating along the two seating tiers. The other advantage of using this material is that it can easily withstand harsh weather conditions and it looks aesthetically pleasant too! The frame is made from heavy duty sleepers which are treated for longevity.

The school didn’t want to have any roof over this area either as they felt that it would be too imposing and restrictive.

The school also wanted to have some sort of a built-in, focal central stage so that either pupils could use this to present their performances or studies and/or teachers could also use to teach from. Again, we had to take the weather into account so this stage is made from a special anti-slip decking.

The job was completed within a week during the summer holidays so the school are now looking forward to their first outdoor sessions!

For further information, please contact the Hideout House Company on 01865 858982 or email: info@hideouthouse.com

amphitheatre seating

amphitheatre seating with stage

Treehouse outdoor classrooms for forest schools

At the Hideout House Company, we always enjoy a healthy amount of enquiries from schools who are looking for something a bit different to have either in their playground or more usually in their forest school area. The enquiry is also typically for some sort of a shelter or outdoor classroom where the children can congregate or be taught lessons whilst in an outside environment.

Our product range does already encompass a wide variety of buildings and structures for this type of application but treehouses for schools seem to always add a bit of extra interest. I think it is because it is that bit more exciting than something which is floor mounted. Imaginations can work overtime.

We have therefore designed an octagonal treehouse outdoor classroom which is basically raised up on elevated stilts. You can have the option of having it fully enclosed and to add that extra bit of mysticism, the windows are in a Gothic, arched style. Or alternatively you could have it open sided like a gazebo with lower level solid infill bevel panels. The roof is an attractive cedar shingle tile roof and it is also possible to have an atrium style roof in order to allow in lots of natural daylight from above.

Underneath it, a rotating tyre swing will hang from the underside of the unit as well an easy access rope ladder leading up to a secret trap door. In forest schools, fire pits are used quite a lot so if a school was wanting to provide for some heating in the treehouse, it is possible to have a wood-burning stove with flue. Children can therefore gather firewood from the wood or forest and then burn it in the stove for extra heat.

The timber used for the external cladding is a wany-edged larch which gives the treehouse the rustic, cabin style look to it. There are three sizes available – namely 3m, 4m or 5m and there is an option too to have internal benching.

For further information, please contact the Hideout House Company on 01865 858982 or email info@hideouthouse.com


Break out outdoor classrooms for schools

6m x 4m rectangular outdoor classroom with French doors

We have been asked quite a lot recently to provide outdoor classrooms to be used as “break-out” rooms or as some schools call them, nurture rooms or escape rooms. These are essentially additional spaces where children can be taken out of the melee of the average school day and classroom environment and be given a more personal and intense one-on-one time with teachers and staff. We have found that they need to cater for no more than 15 pupils and staff at any one given time or session.

The reason for having an independent room for this is two fold. The first one being space or should I say lack of it. I have spoken to so many schools who are literally bursting at the seams anyway so there is simply no available room or space to conduct these sessions with pupils – so necessity anyway dictates having something additional sited in the playground or school playing field. Secondly, schools like to have an environment which is out of the main school building anyway as it fosters a sense of calm and re-assurance.

But what sort or type of a building does a school have in this instance? They don’t really want to have a traditional open-sided, gazebo style outdoor classroom (usually octagonal or rectangular) as this limits its use as these rooms need to be used all year round and in all weathers and seasons. A mobile or modular classroom might be too big for this requirement as well and perhaps not affordable in the current financial climate.

This is where our Enclosed outdoor classrooms come into their own as they fall conveniently between the above two options. In the main, they are all below 30m2 so that building regulation approval is not required. They are available in a whole host of sizes and shapes – namely octagonal, rectangular and square – and are manufactured out of cedar with an attractive cedar shingle tile roof. Cedar is a high quality timber (we source our cedar directly from Western Canada where it is grown) so it has numerous advantages over other traditionally used timbers – it doesn’t rot and requires very little, if none, on-going maintenance. Which again saves money in the medium to long term for a school.

Options for these buildings also include insulation, an atrium roof to allow in lots of natural daylight from above, timber sub-frame base, bi-fold doors to the front elevation, eco packages including renewable energy equipment and they are also modular – so within reason, they can easily be adapted for a school’s setting or individual requirements. In the majority of cases, they do not require planning permission as they fall under permitted development rights but a school always need to check first with their local planning authority before proceeding.

They are also typically installed within a week so minimal disruptance to a school’s working week or term. And although we say it ourselves, they do look quite nice!

For further details on our range of break-out or nurture outdoor classrooms, please contact us on 01865 858982 or email: info@hideouthouse.com


outdoor classroom with French doors

The Earth Pod Has Landed!

Earlier this year we developed a “pod” for the glamping market through the leisure brand of the Hideout House Company called Superglamp. These have therefore been sold to holiday parks, hotels, upmarket camping and glamping sites up and down the country who rent them out as accommodation units to paying guests and which have become increasingly popular over the past couple of years as the staycation and short break trend in the UK has taken off.

But these pods have also found another use in the educational market where they can be used as an outdoor learning facility, outdoor classroom, outdoor shelter, nurture room, forest school hideout and den and even as a parent waiting shelter!

A couple of these outdoor classroom pods have therefore recently been supplied to a school in Leicestershire who are using them for a whole host of reasons. The school – and of course the children – love the Hobbit style round circular entrance door and it is big enough inside to cater for a full class. Two large round windows also add to creating a fantasy atmosphere and allow natural light to flood in. The other advantage these pods have is that they are pre-manufactured units which are built in the factory and then delivered to a school on the back of a low loader truck. So causing minimal disruption to a school’s day as you can be up and running using the unit the very same day.

There are various options a school can choose from. Firstly there are two roof types, namely artificial grass or timber feather edging. Then if it was to be used all year round in all seasons, there is the option for an electricity connection which is provided via a low voltage mains unit (cable supplied).  Featuring 2 x double sockets, an electric panel heater, LED strip light and deck lights. We are also able to insulate the pod for thermal efficiency if you are choosing this option.

Secured with a traditional door lock to ensure security and provided with a delightful timber effect floor for easy cleaning and maintenance.

Loved by all ages, our “Earth Pod” is destined to make your school environment a special place to be.

For further information, please contact the Hideout House Company on 01865 858982 or email: info@hideouthouse.com