3,950 sqm



University of Warwick

MASB (Materials & Analytical Sciences Building)

Project Description

This concrete-framed research laboratory building serves the Physics and Chemistry departments on the campus of University of Warwick and provides a high-quality environment for physics, synthetic chemistry, high-field magnetic instrumentation and high-resolution electron microscopy. The building comprises of four floors of high-serviced laboratory and office space, below which there is a double-height laboratory space for high-spec research instrumentation. It also includes meeting rooms and a new main entrance, reception. A ground floor plaza linked the building to the existing principal campus buildings. Laboratory facilities include specialised suites for atomic resolution electron microscopy, high field mass spectrometery, optical laser research and X-ray spectrometry. This required a detailed study of the tightly controlled environmental conditions required by the equipment to control extremely tight tolerances all vibration, acoustic interference including infrasound, cleanliness, temperature, humidity, and Rf and magnetic interference.

Spatial organisation, heavyweight building fabric, structure, building services and finishes were carefully considered in every detail to create an integrated facility isolated and insulated from the effects of adjacent activities and environments. A high-quality sustainable design was achieved. In terms of sustainability, the building achieved BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating and an EPC rating of ‘A’.

Challenge & Solution

Collaborative Research: The overriding driver for the design and development of the facility was to encourage and foster collaborative research both within and between the Departments of Chemistry and Physics at Warwick and to provide a world-class research setting that will be attractive to regional, national and international sponsors and collaborators within industry and academia.

High Quality Laboratories: The laboratory complex houses a range of analytical instruments operating at the nanoscopic scale together with specialist laboratories for research in physics, synthetic chemistry and materials chemistry, including the co-location of instruments with mutually exclusive environmental requirements for instance high magnetic field instruments with high resolution electron microscopes. To achieve the stringently controlled environment for the instrumentation, the Design Team worked collaboratively with many specialists including experts in acoustics, vibration, laser radiation, EMF attenuation, and CFD modelling to analyse and design the structure and space.

Flexibility and Adaptability: Future requirements for avenues of research were noted be unpredictable but the research population was anticipated to grow from 120 to 186 researchers, future instrumentation was expected to require ever more demanding environments, and the changeover of instrument-based experiments was expected to be frequent. Design strategies at the scale of the workplace to the whole building infrastructure were developed to accommodate this.

Energy Efficiency: The University of Warwick’s design team undertook extensive software modelling (daylighting, thermal and energy) to identify and plan the energy-efficiency measures for the building.

Procurement: We adopted two stage procurement of the main contractor and subsequently his M&E sub-contractor to take the successful collaborative approach and depth of understanding from the user, stakeholder and design team, and to integrate the delivery team into it.

Soft Landings: The team carried out seasonal commissioning and fine tuning of building services and automatic controls on the basis of on-going measurement and analysis of energy performance data from extensive metering, and feedback from building users regarding the internal environment.

Innovation & Added-Value

Flexibility and Adaptability: Various designs strategies, including innovative prototyped solutions, were deployed to ensure the building could respond to changes in research theme, group activity and size:

Modular, adaptable laboratory planning with lightweight demountable walls and robust service infrastructure into which individual laboratory requirements could be plugged;

Designed for minimum benchmark space standards at full occupancy so that space standards would shrink as the building population grew;

Cantilever desking system for write up to allow extra personnel (either new recruits or students) to be accommodated simply by the provision of an additional chair and storage;

Double height instrumentation laboratory left as shell space for fit out to future instrumentation requirements with robust service provision to the demise of the room for retrofitting a highly controlled environment as required and incorporating anti-vibration pits;

Design of structure and foundations within the double height instrumentation space to allow for the retrofitting of a mezzanine floor in the space;

Provision of anti-vibration pits with stainless steel reinforcement and isolation joints to allow the co-location of future instruments with different magnetic field criteria. Modelling by a magnetic field specialist was employed to demonstrate that no further active or passive shielding was required;

Bespoke ceiling system with sliding pendant service gantries and plug and play service spine above the ceiling to allow for easy reconfiguration of experiments by the users without reference to University FM personnel.