The first purpose-built centre of its kind in the UK, the Blavatnik School of Government provides tomorrow’s political leaders and policy makers with world-class educational facilities.The Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford
- Client University of Oxford Estates Directorate
- Location Oxford
- Project partners Herzog & de Meuron
- Status Completed
Designed to encourage collaboration, the building’s circular structure features a series of spherical terraces balanced upon one another, connected by curved staircases that curl through the interior. The successful completion of this prestigious project has proved a showcase for the benefits of direct delivery.
The building’s award-winning architectural vision demanded the most exacting aesthetic standards: a spiralling cascade of shimmering glass envelopes the exterior, contrasting with a free-flowing concrete interior, pieced together flawlessly as if created in a single pour.
The project team channelled the power of their experience in digital engineering to develop the design, ensuring the structure’s constituent parts blended seamlessly with one another, with no visible joints or services.
This technology was also used to devise the delivery strategy – and identify ongoing opportunities for improvement during the construction phase. In parallel, a web-based asset management system was created, which was handed over to the client on completion.
In order to discreetly incorporate the mechanical and electrical elements, the specification for the wiring was painstakingly modelled a year ahead of the start of works – with precise GPS coordinates linked to each terminal device.
Channelling Laing O'Rourke's experience of DfMA, the project’s building services strategy was designed to maximise its use, with the majority of components manufactured by in-house experts Crown House Technologies. These included plant skids and modules for the major equipment, including gas-fired boilers, pump sets, air-handling unit valve assemblies and multi-service risers.
This approach has proven to substantially improve productivity in delivery. But, perhaps more importantly, given the impact of building services on operating costs – and the superior quality that can be achieved through offsite methodologies – it has the potential to generate substantial efficiencies over the life-time of the asset.
To achieve the smoothest of finishes, concrete specialists Expanded used laser-controlled technology to perfect the formwork, with shuttering crafted offsite in a controlled environment. This was then transported to the project, where structural components such as the staircases and walls were poured in situ.
In a construction first, tablet devices with 3D models of the concrete detailing were used by steel-fixers to ensure absolute precision in delivery.
Visual Method Statements
By extracting specific information from the digital engineering model, the project team was able to create ‘visual method statements’ for the various works. These animated sequences allowed potential issues to be pre-empted and processes adjusted accordingly, delivering certainty for the client. They also served as an effective workforce communication tool, breaking down complex activities into simple steps and maximising coordination across the trades.
Intelligent Asset Management
On completion of the delivery phase, the digital engineering model was updated to reflect the final outcome, as constructed. This was used to create a web-based asset management system for the client – containing information about the design, manufacture, operation and maintenance of each element of the building.
To ensure the university’s facilities personnel were fully conversant with the software, a series of in-depth training sessions were provided.