Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge

Securing another 100 years of research and discoveries

Scientists at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge have won many Nobel prizes and other scientific awards through their pioneering work and developments, most notably the sequencing of DNA.

The researchers at LMB work at a molecular level to understand and ultimately tackle human health problems and disease. BAM worked at an entirely different scale to develop their new building, which gives them twice as much space as their former facility.

Project details

  • Customer: Medical Research Council
  • Contractor: BAM Construction
  • Architect: RMJM
  • Quantity surveyor: Gleeds
  • Project management: Davis Langdon
  • Structural engineer: Adams Kara Taylor
  • M&E consultants: KJ Tait and RMF Engineering Inc. (Baltimore)
  • Value: £170m
  • Floor area: 32,000m2
  • Completion: November 2012

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The design of the new building represents an X-shaped chromosome and is both striking to look at and excellent to work in, with a large atrium and circulation space joining two assymetrical blocks. It incorporates state-of-the-art facilities for some 400 scientists and 200 support staff.

The site was challenging, alongside a hospital, sixth-form college and railway line. So BAM had to minimise disruption to the surrounding communities during comstruction.

We also had to manage the inherent risks in a lab building of noise, vibration, contaminants, rapid environmental change and potential failure of air or electrical supplies.

“This is a world class project that BAM (and the whole team) can be very proud of. The work ethic from BAM was extraordinary and they are a practical and straightforward bunch of people who managed issues very well. They have left behind a very happy client.”

Dudley George

Project Manager, Medical Research Council

Collaborative and flexible

Fostering trust was crucial: for example BAM located all the teams together and built a demonstration suite where the customer could see simple but vital elements — from lab furniture to ironmongery — in context, making them easier to sign off.

Vibration is a big issue for researchers working at this 'micro' level, so we kept it to a minimum by housing heavy plant in separate towers linked to the main building.

This kind of flexibility will ensure longevity for the building (100 years is the MRC’s ambition!), as will the sustainable features such as the largest ground source heat pump system ever installed in the UK.

"It is extremely gratifying to watch the stunning designs take shape and see the potential of the new building realised before our eyes. Our scientists will make the discoveries of the 21st century in this world-class research centre." 

Dr Hugh Pelham

Director of MRC LMB