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INGOODCOMPANY The appliance of science


A new building for the University of Cambridge is designed for collaborative working and to encourage innovation but its build is posing technical challenges of its own


he University of Cambridge’s Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (CEB) building

combines two departments which have outstanding reputations in the fields of chemistry, physics, mathematics, clinical medicine and biology. The new building is the first of its

kind to facilitate collaboration between undergraduates, postgraduates and researchers from various academic fields through the whole cycle of scientific investigation. The project is being delivered by main contractor Morgan Sindall, working with Sweett Group, the university’s project manager, project designer BDP (Architects), Ramboll UK (Civil and Structural) and Hoare Lea (M&E). The project brief was to design a

combined facility that introduces a new dramatic presence on the university’s West Cambridge site. The CEB building aims to encourage integration across all departments and teams in an innovative, modern and sustainable environment, conducive to world class research and teaching.

The building is split over two areas: the

laboratories, where the scientific research takes place; and the Researchers’ House, an open-plan write up and learning area which encourages collaborative working and sharing.

Complex tech The entire laboratory facility is treated as a Cat 2 (BSL 2) laboratory space to allow a high level of biological work to be undertaken in any part of the research facility. A Cat 3 (BSL 3) laboratory suite is also contained within the facility for work

with Home Office notifiable pathogens. This has been designed in accordance with the requirements of the local anti-terrorism officer whilst allowing the scientific work to be undertaken effectively. The three large biological labs are placed in the centre of the building and arranged to provide dual-aspect views and daylight. Due to the building’s highly technical specifications, there were a number of interesting technical challenges that had to be overcome. The largest single room housed within the building is a double height space of nearly 400 sq m and will hold some of the largest, most powerful magnets in Cambridge. With this in mind, standard ferrous materials could not be used. Therefore, the raft foundation in this area includes stainless steel reinforcement, which was compounded by the fact that the raft is actually 1m thick. To ensure that the area for the concrete pour was free of any ferrous materials, a meticulous cleaning regime of the area was required before the pour was allowed to proceed.

Seeing it in 3D With a variety of services required, the laboratories include a number of technical features. Coordination of this would not have been possible through standard 2D design and the M&E subcontractor, Shepherd Engineering Services, adopted 3D modelling to design out any potential clashes, and coordinate all services within the ceiling void. Due to space restrictions, a lot of the ductwork has been placed on the outside of the building, hidden by zinc cladded risers making this building aesthetically unique.


“The laboratories include a number of technical features. Coordination of this would not have been possible through standard 2D design”

The Researchers’ House will benefit

from an innovative ventilation solution. Allowing fresh air to pass through internal spaces has been proven to aid wellbeing and is conducive to effective studying. Sensors throughout the Researchers’ House will be linked to control systems running complex algorithms. The sensors will compare the outdoor temperature with

both the internal temperature and CO2 levels before deciding whether or not the windows should be opened.

Case study

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