The new flagship home for the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) has been completed at the newly established Cambridge Biomedical Campus in Cambridge.
Designed by RMJM Architects and carried out by main contractor BAM Construction, the development was built for the Medical Research Council (MRC) and replaces an older facility. The new site will enable world-class researchers at the LMB and at the university’s Clinical School and Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to establish new links and work together in translating basic fundamental research.
Discoveries and inventions developed at the LMB – including DNA sequencing and determining the structure of proteins – have revolutionised all areas of biology.
Initial site works included the enlargement of an existing roundabout and the construction of a new length of carriageway with footways. This in turn facilitated the erection of the principal laboratory building and an attendant Energy Centre.
The footprint of the main building stands at around 165 metres long and 67 metres wide. The three floors of main workspace rise to a height of 19 metres, whilst the height increases to approximately 23 metres in order to accommodate the central atrium and rooftop restaurant. Rising above the main bulk of the building, the plant towers and associated flues reach a maximum height of 35.5 metres.
At ground floor level, the main entrance is located to the east of the building, whilst the first floor features a lecture theatre at the front and the second floor mimics the basic layout of the floors below.
The workspace on each of the floors is arranged in parallel blocks that twist at opposing ends to create an ‘X’ chromosome shaped footprint on an east-west axis. The workspaces are separated by a central atrium that is bridged internally and acts as a communal circulation space. On the third floor, there is a restaurant and coffee shop in the southwest corner, along with a terrace that runs along the southern and western edges of the roof.
Over each occupied floor is an interstitial floor. An interstitial floor is a floor level that specifically provides servicing and ventilation for the workspaces below. This facilitates the majority of maintenance outside scientific areas and increases the building’s adaptability.
The interstitial floors in turn feed into four external plant towers that supply and extract from the area. One of the advantages of this arrangement is that it removes the need to stack the plant on the roof and minimises the vibration above the research space. Additional four plant towers are located centrally at the top of the building and provide secondary and specialist air handling.
Externally, the workspace and interstitial floors feature a layer of single glazing. Behind this is another layer of double glazing for the workspace and metal panel cladding to the interstitial floors. The layered nature of the glazing creates a void that acts as a thermal flue, providing insulation in the winter and an escape for hot air in the summer.
Also included in the scheme is an Energy Centre, which will generate and distribute energy for the LMB. Located to the north of the development, the centre is separated from the main building by a service yard. The Energy Centre is 95 metres long on the northern side and measures 27 metres at its widest point. It rises to a height of 13 metres and is finished with a mixture of precast concrete panels and metal grilles.