New Medical and Research Premises Handed Over

The University of Oxford welcomed a new addition to its Science Area recently with the completion of the 26,000m2 Oxford Biochemistry Building. Set over six floors including two basements levels, it will become home to the Kavli Institute for Nanoscience Discovery and will house more than 40 faculty and 400 students, postdocs and research staff.

The Kavli Institute will be a unique combination of structural biology with world-leading biochemistry, pathology, chemistry, physics, physiology and engineering. The building will also feature highly specialised technical and research areas, while being home to three cryo-EM microscopes which have a higher resolving power than light microscopes and can reveal the structure of smaller objects.

The project has been completed by Laing O’Rourke 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. Structures and geotechnical aspects were delivered by Expanded Structures and building services and infrastructure technology by CHt to deliver these world class premises.

Laing O’Rourke and the University of Oxford’s relationship stems over 20 years and the first phase of the Biochemistry Building was handed over in 2008, with the second and now completed phase starting in 2018.

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 offsite. 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.”

University of Oxford SRO, 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.”

Louisa Bowles, Partner and Head of Sustainability at Hawkins\Brown said: “The New Biochemistry Building is a culmination of almost 20 years of collaboration with the University of Oxford, and the latest phase is indicative of the evolution of scientific practice within the last decade. The building aspires to be an enjoyable place to work, with creative interventions across the building inspired by the work of research groups accommodated on site. We are proud to have delivered a building that will contribute to multidisciplinary research and look forward to seeing how the spaces will be inhabited in the coming years.

Jonathan Childs, Pell Frischmann’s Sector Director Buildings said: “Pell Frischmann is honoured to be part of the team, working with the University of Oxford, to complete this state-of-the-art research facility that completes the existing bio-chemistry building and will enable integration of the university’s science departments. The project, constrained by the existing University campus, has greatly benefited from the effective use of Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) to create a hybrid pre-cast / insitu concrete frame that provides flexible efficient collaborative space, topped out ahead of programme.”

Matthew Jones, Partner, Hoare Lea said: “This project epitomises everything we love about building design and engineering. From technically complex laboratories to welcoming social spaces, this is a building that not only provides the University with world-class research facilities, but also an environment that will transform collaboration across departments. We are proud to have helped create a home for the University’s next generation of pioneering research to take place.”

AECOM’s Richard Mann, Healthcare and Science Sector Leader UK & Ireland said: “Delivering one of the university’s most complex and largest capital projects within budget and in such uncertain times has required clear cost certainty from day one. This has been achieved through clear and accurate commercial guidance and working collaboratively with the university and project team to identify opportunities to secure cost efficiencies.”


With the building now handed over, equipment in support of the science is being installed and first occupation is expected to begin from this month.

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