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Fraser Brown MacKenna science block opens at University of East Anglia

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The £20 million facility at the western end of UEA’s parkland campus provides flexible undergraduate teaching laboratories plus more informal teaching space

Fraser Brown MacKenna’s brief was to create an open, accessible building, designed to allow sciences to grow and to attract more students to the University of East Anglia.

The main entrance at the south-eastern corner of the building accesses an atrium for orientation and circulation, which leads to spaces for social learning and quiet study that complement the more formal teaching spaces of the labs and classrooms. The atrium includes an 80-seat ‘elephant step’ auditorium, providing a venue for informal lectures and performance.

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The 3,000m² teaching laboratories are spread across four storeys and include 890m² of chemistry and pharmacy ‘super-lab’ capable of accommodating 140 students. Most labs are simple and rectangular in plan and are located in a linear arrangement, with ancillary and support spaces are located between them and circulation spaces.

Transparency is maximised within and into the new labs to help promote cross-collaboration, while all labs have adjustable-height benches and fume cupboards to improve accessibility.

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Architect’s view

There is a paradox in science laboratory buildings. As a building type, they typically have huge carbon footprints, while simultaneously teaching the next generation of scientists about how best to tackle the climate emergency.

UEA asked for a building which tackles this paradox and that provides a step-change in their science teaching and creates an internal environment that promotes well-being, accessibility, learning and research.

The sheltered entrance courtyard takes inspiration from the piazza by Lasdun/Feilden+Mawson by the UEA Student Union as a means of dealing with level changes while exploiting the opportunity to create a lively public realm. Visitors enter via a dramatic double-height colonnade into a four-storey atrium, which contains a variety of social and study spaces, from which all labs and teaching spaces are accessed.

A mixture of large and small, noisy and quiet social spaces are provided for collaboration between disciplines – which is what Lasdun envisaged 60 years ago when first developing the principles for UEA.

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A linear plan arrangement best utilises the site and takes advantage of views of the beautiful woodland surrounding the building. The labs have all been located to ensure efficient servicing, with the most heavily serviced labs on the 3rd floor and the least on the 1st floor. The structural slabs have been exposed throughout to store warmth in winter and coolth in summer; and to provide ’peak-lopping’ of temperature extremes. This also avoids the embodied energy of suspended ceilings.

The materiality of the building echoes the more recent surrounding buildings by Mather and others by using render, porcelain tile and zinc as primary materials, chosen so that the building feels a part of the existing ensemble.

The arrangement of these materials emphasises the horizontality of the south façade, referencing the Lasdun Wall, by establishing a datum which enhances and expresses the sloping topography. The use of black zinc shingles to the north was selected to reduce visual impact when viewed from the surrounding woodland. This material also clads a tall sculptural fume extract chimney, which celebrates the building’s function and is visible from afar.

The strongly modelled west façade, which faces the west entrance to the campus takes cues from the neighbouring Mather building, with projecting wall and roof planes and Cor-ten shingles, used to bring depth, colour and texture.

Fraser Brown Mackenna Architects

Site plan

Client’s view

With its spectacular atrium, where students can chat and work together, and its beautifully designed laboratories, the New Science Building at UEA really enhances the student experience in the teaching of science across all our subjects.

Undoubtedly, these excellent facilities will attract more students to our courses and will allow us to develop new and exciting approaches to science teaching.

The flexibility of the laboratory designs will enable us to vary from small group to large class teaching and we will be able to support our students through the enhanced audiovisual capabilities that are apparent throughout the building. This is a UK-leading science laboratory teaching building.

Professor Mark Searcey, pro-vice chancellor for science, UEA

Ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site January 2018
Completion date August 2019
Gross internal floor area 7,200m²
Gross external floor area 7,353m²
Form of contract JCT Design and Build (2011)
Construction cost £20 million
Construction cost per m² £2,780
Architect Fraser Brown MacKenna Architects
Executive architect Fraser Brown MacKenna Architects (novated)
Client University of East Anglia
Structural engineer MLM Consulting
M&E consultant Johns Slater & Haward
QS Aecom
Heritage consultant Cambridge Architectural Research Unit
Ecology consultant Wild Frontier Ecology
Fume cupboard specialist Mike Dockery
Fire engineer Aecom
Planning consultant Ingleton Wood
Landscape consultant Wynne-Williams Associates
Acoustic consultant Ramboll
Project manager Real Consulting
CDM co-ordinator Lendlease
Approved building inspector MLM Building Control
Main contractor RG Carter
CAD software used AutoCAD, Revit

Environmental performance data

Percentage of floor area with daylight factor ≥ 2% 82%
Percentage of floor area with daylight factor ≥ 5% 74%
On-site energy generation 22%
Annual mains water consumption 2.85m³/occupant/year (excludes lab areas)
Airtightness at 50Pa 2.98 m³/h.m²
Heating and hot water load 23.64 kWh/m²/yr
Overall area-weighted U-value 0.29 W/m²K
Design life in years 30 years (envelope), 30 years (services), 60 years (structure)
Embodied/whole-life carbon Not calculated
Annual CO2 emissions 8.7 kgCO2/m²
EPC Rating A
Fume cupboard face velocity 0.35m/s (typically 0.5m/s)

Short section

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