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First look: NBBJ’s high-tech home for scientists

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The £17.5 million National Vaccinology Centre in Surrey – a research facility for scientists studying diseases in animals – officially opened last week

The Jenner Building – to give it its official name – is sited on the campus of the Pirbright Institute in Woking. The institute conducts research into viral diseases among farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans.

Appointed in 2012, NBBJ’s brief was for an adaptable building in what is an evolving campus with a changing mix of research programmes. The accommodation includes both generic and specialist laboratories designed to biosecurity protocols, alongside offices, meeting and social areas.

The building’s brick colonnade frames heathland views, and is designed to draw visitors in from all around the campus. Its entrance, offices and collaborative hubs are situated away from the main approach, to maximise scenic views and ensure natural ventilation, while laboratories are concentrated along the north-facing campus side, where the benefit of daylight without direct sunlight assists in temperature control for the science spaces.

57. Pirbright Institute

57. Pirbright Institute

Source: Richard Chivers

The laboratory and office workplace design supports quiet, concentrated work by individuals alongside space for group collaboration. Internal travel distances have been minimised for maximum efficiency and the adaptability of spaces and services allows for changes in research programmes and group sizes over time.

The interior design uses natural wood panelling and a shade of green that matches the surrounding heathland, intended to promote calmness.

Rustic pale brick piers with lime mortar alternate with tall windows along the northern elevation forming the backdrop to a future quadrangle, while the southern side features extensive glazing shaded by distinctive bronze anodised louvres.

Architect’s view

We’ve designed the Jenner Building to be efficient both in terms of energy use and working methods. The architecture’s primary focus is to enable and inspire innovation and research that can set new global precedents. As the first new building on this campus we have designed it to signpost the work carried out by the Pirbright Institute; its materiality, on the other hand, was designed to relate to the local vernacular and landscape of this part of Surrey.

Ingo Braun, design director, NBBJ

Project data

Start on site 2013
Completion March 2017
Gross internal floor area 
3,955m² 
Form of contract GC Works
Construction cost £17.5 million
Architect NBBJ 
Contractor’s architect Scott Tallon Walker
Client The Pirbright Institute
Structural engineer Ramboll UK
MEP consultant & BREEAM consultant Hoare Lea
QS Faithful & Gould
Landscape architect Robert Myers Associates 
Project manager AECOM
Cdm Co-ordinator Kendal Kingscott
Approved building inspector Mlm Building
Main contractor John Sisk & Sons
Cad software used Revit
Annual CO2 emissions 22.5kg/m2

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