Are we building too much lab space?
Imperial College, London, UK
Dating back to 1845, Imperial College London’s Department of Chemistry has a long and prestigious heritage. The new Molecular Science Research Hub involved repurposing an existing office building
to deliver high-quality laboratories across six floors. This includes the installation of 337 fume cupboards, specialist laboratory space, a high-specification 250-seat lecture theatre, a new advanced Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) suite, a suite of lasers, low electric noise laboratories, and numerous specialist open-plan laboratory suites.
The aim of the project is to provide updated facilities and bring together up to 800 researchers from a range of backgrounds to address and explore developments in areas such as energy, healthcare, and sustainability. Our key challenge was to design future-proof MEP services so they could be easily modified, and also accommodate the delivery of nearly 100m3/s of fresh air required to service the laboratory areas. We researched methods for providing diversified air loads to large chemistry facilities using empirical data provided by Oxford, Bristol, and Reading universities. This meant we could maximise the number of fume cupboards that could be accommodated within the building.
We worked hard to optimise the effective laboratory space, while keeping energy use to a minimum. Designing a dedicated local cooling provision meant we could control areas of high heat gain. We provided façade advice to mitigate solar loads on laboratory areas where close temperature control was required. All these elements resulted in an impressive BREEAM Excellent rating for this high-specification building.