Henry Royce Institute

External view of Henry Royce Institute

External view of Henry Royce Institute


Simona Peet. Ramboll

Simona Peet

Project Director
T: +44 7587 659 716
Ramboll. Lynden Spencer-Allen. Image courtesy of Paulina Sobczak Photography

Lynden Spencer-Allen

Technical Director
T: +44 7436 542 678

Based at the heart of the University of Manchester’s campus, the Henry Royce Institute for Materials Science Research and Innovation brings together world-leading academics from across the UK to work closely with industry to ensure commercialisation of fundamental research. 

Built alongside the National Graphene Institute (NGI) and Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), the Henry Royce Institute will enable the UK to grow its world-leading research and innovation base in advanced materials science and technology.

The trio of buildings form part of The University of Manchester's £1bn ten-year Estates Strategy to create a world class campus for students and staff. Having provided a variety of engineering services on the University’s GEIC and award winning NGI, Ramboll’s involvement in the Royce builds on the already successful relationship with The University of Manchester and project team members Arcadis and Laing O’Rourke. 

Operating with its Hub at The University of Manchester, the Henry Royce Institute is a partnership of nine leading institutions including the universities of Cambridge, Imperial College London, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Oxford, the National Nuclear Laboratory, and UKAEA.

Science on show

Consisting of nine storeys above ground, a partial basement and mezzanine, the 16,000m2 Institute Hub features a variety of uses including high specification laboratories, some with bio-containment level 2 and extremely low vibration requirements, heavy duty testing areas, offices and industry collaboration spaces.

Ground breaking research to be undertaken on site includes the development of 2D materials used in inks for printable electronics, nuclear materials to support the energy sector, materials systems for demanding environments and a research group focused on the development and manufacture of biomedical materials used in the field of regenerative medicine and prosthetics. 

Designed to promote ‘science on show’, researchers and industry partners are linked through vertical connections and shared spaces. A triple height ground floor entrance space is open to the wider campus and visually permeable layouts allow visitors a glimpse into the workspaces as they climb the staircase through the three storey atrium.

Ramboll led the civil, structural, vibration, fire and acoustics design and championed the use of a space typology approach where research within the building is arranged in terms of types of space as opposed to individual research groups. This resulted in a highly rational, flexible and cost efficient design.

Offsite structural solution

Tight site constraints and the wide range of space typologies led to an offsite precast concrete design. Ramboll identified that a pre-fabricated approach would speed up construction, increase quality and minimise waste as well as the number of site deliveries. A precast concrete solution delivers mass and strength to the building’s structure, necessary to accommodate the heavy scientific equipment and deliver the ultra-low vibration requirements. 

Combining Ramboll’s expertise in offsite construction and advanced digital engineering, alongside close collaboration with the contractor, architect and MEP engineers, the full benefits of offsite construction were realised. Using advanced digital design tools, the MEP, architectural design and structural arrangement were fully coordinated to deliver a consistent MEP servicing strategy with allocated spaces for risers set out in all floor slabs, demonstrating how vital the integration of MEP strategies, thoughtful consideration of architectural aspirations and planning for future adaptability are in the early design stages.

Prior to construction, bringing forward the downstream data and input from builder’s work locations, core walls openings and cast in elements helped the client and the design team make earlier informed decisions at a stage when changes can be easily, and more cost effectively, made.

The main structural frame consists of hybrid precast and cast-in-situ for the upper floors, “twin walls” for the structural stability walls and precast columns. The precast elements were standardised in size wherever possible, reducing manufacturing and installation time and cost. Just in time site deliveries were accurately scheduled for programme assurance and improvement of the overall site environment with less waste and site traffic, vital for a project located in the heart of Manchester.

Ultra-low vibration

The building houses demanding characterisation and imaging equipment that requires extremely low vibration levels. This posed a critical challenge for the vibration strategy, made especially difficult with the site’s location alongside a busy road and impact of wind on the medium-rise nature of the building. Ramboll’s vibration expertise was critical in defining the brief, carrying out surveys and developing a robust design concept.

Ramboll developed a modelling methodology to study the vibration performance of the offsite hybrid lattice slab to optimise the lattice planks joints layout to achieve the best vibration performance. The vibration strategy for the typical floors is based on a hybrid precast/in situ lattice slab with a combined thickness of 350mm in the central and southern bays to target VC-A vibration criteria. In the northern bay, where the most dominant vibration source is footfall, an enhanced slab thickness of 450mm was used to target VC-B vibration criteria, whilst maintaining consistent finished floor levels.

To achieve the required vibration performance the building utilises a bottom-to-top approach in which the most sensitive vibration equipment is to be housed in the basement while upper floors will provide spaces for less sensitive pieces of equipment. 

The vibration isolation joint at basement level is an important part of the vibration strategy and provides separation of the upper floors and building stability system from the most sensitive basement slab. Ramboll also applied insight gained from the adjacent National Graphene Institute to optimise the Henry Royce’s basement design solution and incorporated an innovative part-piled, part-raft solution that yielded significant cost savings.

Embodied carbon assessment

Ramboll carried out an embodied carbon assessment exercise for the main structural elements (substructure and superstructure) during RIBA stage 3 design which was followed up with an updated assessment based on the as-built quantities information provided by the contractor.  Undertaken in line with the Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE), the study enabled us, in collaboration with the sustainability consultant and contractor, to identify opportunities to further reduce the embodied carbon on future projects with similar context.

President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, said:

“The University is honoured to be the lead partner of the Royce Institute and home to its national hub. The Royce is a beacon for both research and application in this critical field and, as its Chief Scientist and our Regius Professor of Materials, Phil Withers, likes to say it is a national meeting place for UK advanced materials. That meeting place can be physical, of course, as demonstrated by this wonderful hub building but, as well giving us access to such impressive facilities, it also facilitates the bringing together of committed people to share their innovative thinking about new materials.”


240 Blackfriars Road
London SE1 8NW
United Kingdom
Tel:+44 20 7631 5291

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Ramboll UK Limited. Registered in England & Wales. Company registration no. 03659970. Registered office: 240 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NW

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