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FIRST LOOK

Make completes University of Oxford’s first BREEAM Outstanding building

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This 7,500m² medical research building is dedicated to analytical research into the causes, consequences, prevention and treatment of disease

The Big Data Institute (BDI), designed by Make Architects for the University of Oxford, houses over 550 people working on the storage, analysis and processing of enormous quantities of data with the aim of providing new insights into illnesses and treatments worldwide. A large server room provides enough computing power for 600 trillion computations per second.

Significantly, given the heat generated by this activity, the building uses a passive cooling strategy – most notably a 600 metre-long subterranean concrete ‘labyrinth’ – which together with other sustainable features including a combined heat and power plant, photovoltaic panels, sedum roof, sustainable urban drainage system and drainage attenuation, has seen it awarded BREEAM Outstanding status.

BDI atrium space

BDI atrium space

Source: Make Architects

Four levels of office space are arranged around a top-lit atrium. On each level, a mix of cellular offices, open-plan spaces, and social and breakout areas are designed to promote different methods of working and collaboration. The lower ground level, which incorporates two seminar rooms and a servery, receives light from the atrium and lightwells, as well as enjoying views out to plantings and public art outside, including the largest public sculpture in Oxford: ‘Origin’ by Julian Wild.

BDI building designed to provide public outdoor space

BDI building designed to provide public outdoor space

Source: Make Architects

Architect’s view 

The function of the BDI has very much driven its form. Everything has been designed to assist with efficient analysis and processing of vast quantities of data in the most efficient, accessible and environmentally friendly manner possible, while also promoting communication, collaboration and visual connection as per the brief.

It is our fifth building for the University of Oxford and has been awarded BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ status, a first both for Make and for the university.

The standout feature of the building – albeit one that won’t be seen – is the subterranean labyrinth hidden beneath the lower ground floor. This draws in air through lightwells and uses the thermal mass of the ground to heat or cool it before circulating it to the main rooftop plant. This air is then distributed via floor plenums and extracted via the atrium using the stack effect. Very few buildings utilise a labyrinth system and this is a first for a research building in the UK.

The atrium provides the focal point of the building with a feature stair and a smaller communication stair stepping down each side and aiding circulation. Each of the four office floors wraps this atrium with a mix of both perimeter cellular offices and open plan spaces, interspersed with a variety of high quality social and breakout areas providing a visual connection across the building. We have avoided corridors wherever possible and ensured that routes always provide clear views out so that good quality natural light is in all parts of the building.

Peter Matcham, partner and project architect, Make

BDI Ground Floor Plan 13 copy

BDI Ground Floor Plan 13 copy

Source: Make Architects

Ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site January 2015
Completion January 2017
Gross internal floor area 7,449m2
Form of contract or procurement route Design and Build; Make was novated to Mace
Architect Make Architects
Client University of Oxford
Structural engineer Peter Brett Associates
M&E consultant Long and Partners
Cost consultant Arcadis
Landscape consultant LDA
Acoustic Hoare Lea
Project manager CPC
Approved building inspector HCD Group
Main contractor Mace
CAD software used V8 Microstation

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