The BREEAM excellent rated Maxwell Centre forms the latest development that Ramboll has been involved in at The University of Cambridge. As part of the Cavendish Laboratory’s long-term development programme, the new £26 million science facility has been developed to foster advanced research in several scientific fields and is set to provide a new home for “blue skies” research, enabling it to be translated into products of importance for the industrial sector.
Forming part of a £63m investment by government and business to further collaboration between industry and academic research in the Physics department, leading scientists backing the centre believe it will bring forward the scale of industrial engagement in West Cambridge “by a decade” for the benefit of British industry, economy and “society in general”.
The new four storey facility contains research laboratories complemented by seminar rooms, interactive spaces and dedicated hubs. Scientists from industry will occupy the facility alongside the Cambridge research groups to promote a two-way flow of ideas and expose the best early career researchers to scientific problem-solving.
Ramboll’s implementation of an efficient structural arrangement with large, flexible spaces formed by a steel frame with precast plank floors fulfilled the client’s key desire for future flexibility. The 1200m2 lab area has no movement joints in the floor slab and just seven internal columns allowing the labs to be easily changed in the future to cater for different laboratory configurations.
The complex and challenging doubly curved roof was designed to reflect the curved roof of the existing Physics of Medicine Building. The roof was created using a series of curved steel beams, each with a slightly different radius.
The different uses of space between lower ground and the upper floors meant that there were many constraints on the structural layout. One challenge was overcome by the use of an 18m long steel truss which was hung from the steel roof beams to create the business lounge at the top of the building. The design also features meeting rooms and balconies which cantilever out into the internal courtyard.
Ramboll’s design team minimised potential site issues through the use of comprehensive BIM tools facilitating a highly coordinated design. Ramboll also worked closely with the contractor to ensure that the temporary works and installation sequence maintained stability throughout the construction period. This was complemented by the presence of an on-site Ramboll Resident Engineer who ensured that the design was executed correctly on site.
The provision of structural, civil and geotechnical engineering services, and the utilisation of their extensive experience in low vibration lab design, enabled Ramboll’s multidisciplinary team to develop a high quality, innovative facility for the University. The Maxwell Centre project includes a connection to, as well as a partial refit of, the Physics of Medicine Building.