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New £56.5 million world-class building to lead biological sciences research opens

10th October 2014

A new £56.5m building to be at the forefront of science research has been unveiled by Sir David Attenborough.

The renowned broadcaster and naturalist saw first-hand the world-class facilities for science research and teaching within the University of Bristol’s Life Science building.

Capita provided civil and structural engineering, CDMC, air quality, project management and geotechnical services on the building - the university’s biggest construction project to-date - which will be the focal point for globally-leading research needed to tackle the key challenges of the 21st century such as food security and environmental conservation.

Work to construct the 13,500 square metre iconic Life Sciences building began in July 2011 and it has just welcomed its first intake of students.

A total of 2,000 people have worked on the project, including 28 architects from 10 countries.

This flagship project showcases the best in sustainable design and energy efficiency and it’s been designed to achieve the environmental accreditation BREEAM Excellent and represents a major part of the University’s drive to provide energy efficient laboratories.

Heat from the laboratories’ ventilation systems is reclaimed and re-used, rainwater collected from the roof is used to flush the toilets, blinds lower automatically when the sun shines and lighting has been designed to avoid pollution of the night sky.

To reflect the research being carried out inside, the exterior of the building is home to a striking vertical garden, called a living wall, which stands over 20 metres above street level. It’s home to 11 different species of plant, plus boxes for birds and bats, and creates the pattern of a microscope image of algal cells.

A state-of-the-art greenhouse, known as a GroDome, sits on top of the building and is capable of recreating tropical conditions thanks to controlled light, humidity and temperature.

The Life Sciences building also has one of the largest teaching labs in the country, capable of teaching 200 students at once. There are multiple screens to ensure all students can see close-up what the lecturer is doing and moveable walls can change the size of the teaching space.

A five-storey laboratory wing boasts acoustic chambers for bat research, an insectarium, labs for studying ant and bee behaviour, spectroscopy and microscope rooms.

The space around the building has also been redesigned thanks to Nicholas Pearson Associates, with 21 trees and 3,215m2 of shrubs and grasses.

The development site consists of a 0.9 hectare area on the corner of Tyndalls Avenue and St. Michaels Hill, in the heart of the University’s precinct. Two Grade II listed features of the site were retained – the frontage of the former Children's Hospital and the Ivy Gate which leads to Royal Fort House and gardens, a nationally significant archaeological site having been developed as a bastioned fort during the English Civil war in 1642.

Patrick Finch, Bursar at the University of Bristol, said: “This building and its surrounding public realm has represented the most ambitious project taken on by the University's Estates Office to-date.

“That it has now been successfully handed over to form a wonderful new home for staff and students is a testimony to a strong ethos of team working between staff in Estates and in the School of Biological Sciences, consultants and contractors. I am immensely proud of the team's achievement, which should set a standard in the sector for many years to come.”

Images: Nick Smith/University of Bristol


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