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19 September 2018

Beecroft building open

The Beecroft Building, a new 8,950sqm building for physics at The University of Oxford, delivered by Laing O’Rourke, opened earlier this week.

Photo credit: Jack Hobhouse

World wide web pioneer, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and donor, Adrian Beecroft, joined the Chancellor, Lord Patten of Barnes, and the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, to officially open the new state-of-the-art facility located in Oxford University’s science area, Parks Road. 

As the principal contractor Laing O’Rourke’s fully integrated one team approach allowed us to build dynamic work and research laboratory space with minimal environmental and carbon impact. We were able to link existing with new, in both design and science, creating a high quality environment.

The Beecroft Building sits above the deepest basement in Oxford: a 16 metre-deep complex of high specification laboratories intended to house extremely environmentally-sensitive atomic-level experiments that will advance the University’s research into areas such as quantum science and technology, and probe the fundamental laws of nature.

The Beecroft Building will accommodate some 200 theoretical and experimental physicists. It has been designed to foster collaborative working in a visually connected, acoustically controlled environment. Offices and collaboration spaces are organised within a five storey atrium connected by a meandering staircase to enhance social interactions. Breakout spaces are arranged at half levels within the atrium, with informal seating arranged around double height curved blackboards.

Facts and figures:

  • Deepest basement in Oxford

  • BREEAM Excellent

  • 72 kilometres of electric cable

  • 760 tonnes of steel

  • 155 kilometres of high-speed data cable

  • Nearly 11 kilometres of pipework 

The Beecroft Building provides the most technically advanced facilities and a modern working environment that will transform the way Oxford University’s Department of Physics works.

Liam Cummins, Laing O’Rourke’s Head of UK Building said:

‘We have enjoyed a lasting partnership with the University of Oxford, with the Beecroft building providing a great example of the quality and certainty that comes from that. Our continued commitment to an early engagement approach and engineering excellence is reflected in what we’ve been able to deliver together. It is a facility which we hope will benefit both students and academic research in the years to come.’

Professor John Wheater, Head of the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford said:

‘Modern science is essentially collaborative - the days of the lone scientist are long gone. The Beecroft Building, the Physics Department’s first new major research facility for over 50 years, has been designed to enable and encourage people to work together in the fluid combinations that are crucial to solving today's complex scientific problems, and to provide a laboratory environment that is second to none.

‘The building’s ultra-low vibration levels and extremely close temperature control will enable experimental work that would have been impossible in our existing buildings. We will build a demonstrator quantum computer, visualise quantum mechanics at the level of individual atoms, and make amazingly precise measurements with the potential to reveal tiny discrepancies between theory and experiment.

‘Mysteries of the Universe still abound. We know our theories of the fundamental particles and the forces between them are incomplete. We understand little of how complex systems self-assemble. We continue to be surprised by the scope to invent theoretically new forms of materials with novel and potentially useful properties that turn out to be implementable in real materials.

‘These issues are all challenging and increasingly interdisciplinary. All involve basic science questions, some have obvious practical applications, others will turn out to have unforeseen implications. The Beecroft Building is a beacon of excellence that is already attracting the best scientists from around the world to come to Oxford to grapple with them. This is a time of great opportunity for Oxford Physics.'

Oliver Milton, Head of the Education & Research Sector at Hawkins\Brown said:

‘The Beecroft Building combines a creative and sensitive response to a challenging city centre site with a very carefully resolved internal organisation that delivers a step change in physics research environments.  It is the continuation of the now decade long collaboration the practice has enjoyed with the University of Oxford to deliver buildings across their estate.

‘The building is essentially a 10-storey tower - half of it buried below ground to achieve the performance requirements. This split character belies the unified concept that guided our design for the building: taking responsibility for both the technical design of the labs as well as the workspace above ground enabled Hawkins\Brown to create an integrated whole that creates opportunities for social and collaborative working.’

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