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University of Oxford, Department of Biochemistry . Oxford. UK

Oxford University Estates Directorate
Building Construction DfMA and Offsite ManufacturingEngineering Expertise
Project partners

University of Oxford, Department of Biochemistry . Oxford. UK

University of Oxford, Department of Biochemistry . Oxford. UK

Full project details

A state-of-the-art research building, designed with thinking spaces to maximise the cross fertilisation of ideas

The Biochemistry Department is the largest in the UK and renowned for its research into DNA, cell growth and immunity. It brings together the top international scientists in bioinformatics, gene culture and biochemistry; within a modern 24 hour environment. The building is an expansive and distinctive facility with sky reaching glass facades and coloured fins and houses over 300 lecturers, researchers and students. It challenges preconceptions about how a research facility should be designed and has transformed the previous facility's outmoded buildings spread across the science area.

Interactive space
From the outset, the focus was to encourage interaction and collaboration between researchers and groups. The building eliminates the public perception of the secretive nature of research with its high transparent glass elevations and research spaces that open out the external face, reiterating the value and integrity of biomedical research. The atrium is naturally lit and ventilated with research spaces linked by a corridor to study areas, creating an open and transparent space, which maximises light and focuses on interaction between groups.

Confined site
The site was very confined and situated close to the city centre, next to a Grade II listed building containing 800 students. This required a robust logistics plan and extensive stakeholder liaison between our dedicated logistics manager and the University. The project team organised weekly meetings with neighbours and stakeholders to keep them informed throughout the entire programme. This proved a great success and enhanced confidence in our commitment to operating as a considerate constructor. Deliveries to site were coordinated on a ‘just in time’ basis, using a materials holding area, situated just outside the city to organise deliveries within agreed time frames. 

Relieving congestion
Traffic management was key for the University and Oxford City Council; especially during the excavation phase when more than 24,000m³ of material was removed; equating to 3,000 wagons passing through the area. We created an effective traffic management plan through intelligent planning and maintaining good communication with the statutory authorities and neighbours. 

Offsite modular approach
We minimised the impact of our presence by adopting an offsite approach that encompassed modular cladding elements, building services plant, distribution risers, horizontal pipework and ductwork. 

We exceeded the University’s environmental objectives by introducing water harvesting to supply WC cisterns and building in a natural air supply drawn through vents at ground level, heated and fed into the atrium. This ventilates the main stairs and flues at roof level and reduces the need for extensive ductwork and powered circulation fans.


  • Gold CIOB Construction Manager of the Year
  • Silver – Considerate Constructor Scheme
  • RIBA Award

Project facts

12,000m² and the Largest 24hr biochemistry department in the UK

Sustainable approach - solar photo-voltaics, underfloor heating, natural air circulation, water harvesting

91% of on-site waste recycled

Laing O’Rourke has continually demonstrated their capability to deliver our most complex projects on time and to an exceptional quality.”

Mike WiggEstates Director, University of Oxford

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