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Internal transparency marks out highly functional clinical centre by Reiach and Hall

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The design of the centre for the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service is notable for an internal 50m-long glazed wall revealing working areas to the public

Sited in Edinburgh, the Jack Copland Centre by Reiach and Hall is designed to ensure the safe supply of blood, tissues and cells in Scotland. 

Accommodating around 400 employees, the centre includes facilities for processing and testing blood, quality and regulatory functions, logistics and distribution, administration, research, IT and support offices. 

The building’s layout is divided around strips of accommodation, with a central arcade – the most public part of the building – containing communal functions including a café and CPD space. A gallery within this arcade at the upper level connects the testing and research laboratories.

Glass has been used throughout internally to make boundaries between departments as transparent as possible, while externally the tightly stacked plan had maximised the area of the surrounding park setting. 

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Architect’s view 

A building with highly technical functional requirements presents a particular challenge. There is always a fear (in architect and client) that the functional requirements will not be met – that the adjacencies, flow separations, pressure cascades etc will not be achieved. All too often such facilities become merely built realisations of solutions to a series of technical problems. In fact, good examples are separated from others by how the challenges are met, and the quality of environment that results.

For the national centre is not a processing machine, it is a place of work for around 400 people. Many are existing staff from four different centres, who have been asked to move their place of employment and to work alongside people who may be strangers to them. SNBTS was keenly aware that creating a successful team under these circumstances was a challenge which could be greatly assisted by a sympathetic building design.

Our response was to create a building whose focus is contact between departments and areas, and the people who work in them. This starts with the architectural diagram, which divides the accommodation into strips which are placed alongside each other, maximising the length of interface (and easing the topological flow and adjacency problem), with Testing and Research placed above Manufacturing (enabling a 3D solution to the flow requirements). A central arcade, through which all staff pass on their way to work, contains communal functions. 

The departmental boundaries are then dissolved by making them, as far as possible, of glass. Perhaps the most striking example is a glazed wall some 50m long, allowing total visual contact between the principal manufacturing space and the arcade – the most public part of the building.

The composition of the arcade allows views into and through many parts of the building. Galleried office space overlaps with public circulation, and both have views through laboratories and processing areas to the north.

An important benefit is to allow visitors, including schoolchildren, to view the working of all parts of the building without entering restricted areas.

All work areas have daylight and views – vital in the constant search for human error reduction in SNBTS.

The arcade is also a major source of the building’s cultural identity. It is here that we have concentrated the art programme. Steven Aalders has produced a work which extends the length of the space, filling it with shimmering colour and confirming it as the heart of the complex. Elements of are repeated throughout the building in the form of manifestation on glass.

The site layout delivers a generous park, enabled by the tight planning of the brick-clad building which brings a sense of dignity to a type of facility whose immense public value is so often under expressed.

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Client’s view

The Jack Copland Centre brings a sense of bright, uncluttered space which inspires, energises and motivates me – the building has clearly been designed with people in mind.

Kathryn Dick, service quality improvement senior charge nurse, SNBTS

I love working at the Jack Copland Centre – the ability to work in a modern, bright and comfortable office environment has made a significant improvement to my job enjoyment and allowed me to build closer working relationships with colleagues.

Helen Newlands, contracts manager, business development, SNBTS

Plan 00

Ground floor plan

Project data 

Start on site October 2014
Completion 2018
Gross internal floor area 11,187m²
Form of contract or procurement route NPD
Construction cost £30 million
Construction cost per m2 £2,500 (approx)
Architect Reiach and Hall Architects
Client Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (part of National Services Scotland)
Structural engineer Buro Happold
M&E consultant Buro Happold
QS Interserve Construction
Pharmaceuticals consultants eXmoor Pharma Concepts
Landscape consultant rankinfraser landscape architecture 
Project manager Interserve Construction
Artist Steven Aalders 
Consortium Interserve Kajima (joint venture between Interserve Investments and Kajima Partnerships)
CDM coordinator Innov8 Safety Solutions
Main contractor Interserve Construction (with Balfour Beatty Engineering Services) 
Services contractor Balfour Kilpatrick
CAD software used Revit, SketchUp, MicroStation

Section long

Long section

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