168 sqm




University of Warwick

Milburn House, NMR Facility

Project Description

The University of Warwick required an extension to the existing Milburn House to accommodate a new world-leading 1 GHz solid-state NMR system. The extension is situated at the rear of the existing building on an area currently used as car parking and will provide a double height space for the main hall and plantroom and a lower volume for the office space.

The building comprises a highly specified and controlled environment laboratory with a bright separated lobby and workstation area which will allow the users to work in privacy and in direct access and visual connection with the main NMR hall as well as the exterior space.

Challenge & Solution

Successful operation of the NMR equipment needed to address the potential magnetic interference and vibration arising from the proximity of the client’s preferred site to vehicular movements in the adjacent car park roadway, sometimes involving large vehicles to the existing service yard deeper in the site. An options appraisal indicated that relocating the new NMR hall to the other side of the service yard gave a more cost-effective and operationally improved solution that remediating the original proposal through the use of anti-vibration pits, non-ferrous construction and magnetic shielding.

We proposed a space efficient layout using a well-proportioned “simple box” like building with a sensitive use of materials, massing and new external spaces to uplift the “back of house” feel of the existing site to something more appropriate to the gateway location.

Innovation & Added-Value

An early decision to construct the building from small module components to minimise construction impacts needed to be reconciled to the requirements for high thermal mass and airtightness to maintain thermal stability, and the avoidance of non-ferrous materials for magnetic stability. The large height of the NMR hall required to accommodate the NMR equipment required the masonry walls to be stabilized but following investigation, traditional wind posts were rejected in favour of the use of casting in vertical stainless steel rebars at 6m centres into the hollow concrete blocks used for the inner leaf. Precast roofing planks adopted for rapid enclosure of the hall were supported directly on this load-bearing blockwork to eliminate the need for horizontal movement joints whilst vertical movement joints were kept to a minimum allowing the demanding air-tightness requirements to be delivered. All design decisions were reviewed throughout with the equipment manufacturer to ensure the building fabric created the correct environmental conditions for the equipment.