A relationship spanning over 20 years.Oxford Biochemistry Building
- Client The University of Oxford
- Location Oxford
- Status Completed - February 2021
February 2021 saw the University of Oxford welcome a new addition to its Science Area with the completion of the 26,000m2 Oxford Biochemistry Building.
Set over six floors including two basement levels, it is now home to the Kavli Institute for Nanoscience Discovery which will be used by 400 students, faculty, postdocs and research staff.
The Kavli Institute brings together a unique combination of structural biology with world-leading biochemistry, pathology, chemistry, physics, physiology and engineering. The building features highly specialised technical and research areas, along with three cryo-EM microscopes which have a higher resolving power than light microscopes and can reveal the structure of smaller objects.
Oxford University has a long history of global impact….the development of penicillin as the world's first antibiotic and, more recently, a successful Covid-19 vaccine. The communal laboratories and shared interaction spaces of our new building are designed to foster productive interactions that will catalyse future breakthroughs of the same magnitude.
Laing O’Rourke worked in collaboration with the University of Oxford Estates Services Capital Projects team and other sections of the University's Estates Services department, Hawkins\Brown architects, Pell Frischmann structural engineers and Hoare Lea Building services engineers, alongside CPC project services and AECOM cost consultants. Our in-house supply chain saw the structures and geotechnical aspects delivered by Expanded Structures, Crown House Technologies delivered the MEP and GRCUK provided highly bespoke panels for the building’s entrances.
Laing O’Rourke’s relationship with the University of Oxford spans over 20 years, and we’ve completed 10 projects in total – moving directly from one project to another. The first phase of the Biochemistry Building was handed over in 2008 and became recognised as a new model for university research buildings. It reversed the accepted layout that collects the laboratories in the dark centre of the building and instead puts them on the outside where they have contact with the world around them and are highly visible to the wider university community.
This allowed the ‘write up’, teaching spaces and principal investigators offices to be collected around a busy atrium at the heart of the building. This interconnected way of working has increased the number of research projects the department has had sponsored, increased overall funding, and attracted new researchers, lecturers and students from around the world.
The building exterior which is entirely made up of coloured glass fins that reflect the tones of the surrounding historic buildings is often photographed. The glass reflects colourful sunlight into the building during the day and at night projects out into the surrounding streets of the Science Area in Oxford.
Power of Experience
Our two decades of continual delivery with the University of Oxford has allowed us to demonstrate the power of our experience as construction specialists who can deliver complex schemes while maintaining learning within and public access to existing neighboring buildings. We understand the need for our university client to consider the ‘whole of life’ use of its facilities, often giving consideration to heritage buildings, much loved within a community. Through meticulous planning and engaging with stakeholders we made sure our works, which were taking place on a constrained space in the heart of the campus bore sensitivities in mind. We avoided conflict with exam periods or research activity when noise, dust or obstructions could be disruptive. If at any point, changes to the plan were required, this was made clear and communicated in a collaborative manner with the University of Oxford.
Laing O’Rourke’s Project Leader Rob Cooper said: “I am very proud of what has been achieved at the University of Oxford by the team and our partners, particularly through the challenges of adapting ways of working to create a covid-secure site while maintaining focus on delivering a successful project, on time.
“Our use of modern methods of construction allowed us to manufacture large elements of the project off site. We manufactured concrete structures and MEP vertical risers, horizontal distribution service modules and plant rooms in our factories in Nottinghamshire and the West Midlands and assembled them on site which has helped with social distancing requirements; and from the outset was planned around the logistical challenges of constructing within the very centre of the campus.”
The view from our clients
University of Oxford’s, Professor Matthew Freeman said: “Much pioneering science happens at the interface between disciplines, and Oxford University has a long history of global impact that has relied on such interdisciplinarity. This includes, for example, the development of penicillin as the world's first antibiotic and, more recently, a successful Covid-19 vaccine. The communal laboratories and shared interaction spaces of our new building are designed to foster productive interactions that will catalyse future breakthroughs of the same magnitude.
“I have been very impressed with all the teams who have been involved in this mammoth project. At the heart of the process has been an open and constructive relationship with Laing O'Rourke. It's been a credit to all involved that despite the twin challenges of Brexit and global pandemic, the building was completed on schedule. We are now excited about moving in and turbocharging Oxford's scientific research.”
University of Oxford Director of Estates, Paul Goffin said: “I have been enormously impressed by the way so many people from so many different backgrounds both within the University and within its commercial partners have worked together to create a truly state-of-the-art new scientific facility, set up to facilitate world-class interdisciplinary research. This is a fantastic example of teamwork and collaboration, all under the control and management of our Capital Projects team, whose dedication and skill played a huge part in ensuring it was completed ahead of schedule and under budget - a particularly striking achievement given the unprecedented challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Main image photo courtesy of Hawkins\Brown.