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Work started on £40m Harwell lab | BUILDING MAGAZINE

Work started on £40m Harwell lab

Mace have officially started work on a new £40m laboratory building at the Harwell campus in Didcot, which takes ‘insulation’ to new levels.

A ground breaking ceremony held on the 58,000 sq ft building that will form the central hub of the new Rosalind Franklin Institute, a government funded body that looks for treatments and cures for diseases.

The design of the building is different from other research facilities. The aim is to create a near-perfect, stable environment to test the limits of specialist technologies such as electron microscopy and mass spectrometry. For this reason, the ground floor has been designed for extra stability to house sensitive scientific instruments. The foundations of the ground floor will be separated from the rest of the building to shield it from vibration. Stainless steel reinforcement will prevent electromagnetic interference and non-ferrous materials used in the fabric, finishes, and mechanical, electrical and plumbing services. The upper three floor will house working spaces, offices and social areas as well as structural biology, chemistry and imaging laboratories, designed to be flexible to support new collaborations as the Institute grows.

Construction is being managed by the Science & Technology Facilities Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, who are also one of the partners of the Institute alongside 10 UK universities. Mace is the main contractor. Terry Spraggett, Mace’s managing director for public sector construction, said: “This is a hugely important project that has the potential to transform the lives of millions through the cutting-edge research it will support. It is a complex and technically challenging build that we are proud to be delivering on behalf of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and the Science & Technology Facilities Council”.

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) was a pioneering chemist who took the X-ray photograph of DNA that helped establish its helical structure. In her honour, the front of the building will incorporate graphics of the DNA double helix taken from the iconic X-ray photograph – known as Photo 51. Mace is also the appointed main contractor for the £50m National Satellite Testing Facility that is planned for construction at Harwell by 2021.