National Graphene Institute

A complex research institute to develop the wonder material

Building the new 7,600m2 National Graphene Institute, to house state-of-the-art research facilities for graphene, a future 'wonder material', was no easy task. 

Yet we successfully completed the hi-tech building, which includes intensely serviced labs, seminar rooms, offices and two highly controlled clean rooms,  to meet the University of Manchester’s ambitions. Here’s how:

Project details

  • Customer: University of Manchester
  • Contractor: BAM Construction
  • Architect: Jestico+Whites
  • Cost/Project manager: EC Harris
  • Structural engineer: Ramboll
  • Services engineer: CH2M Hill
  • Value: £61m

View related projects

Two independent frames to avoid vibration

To minimise vibration that could affect the highly-sensitive research experiments, the team had to design and construct two structurally independent frames under one roof.

As BAM Construction’s Construction Manager Tony Grindrod explains, “The structure is not overdesigned but it needs the mass to achieve the vibration criteria. The vibration control has pushed the structural design towards a heavy concrete frame.”

Zero contamination clean rooms

The building also includes two high-tech specification clean rooms, fitted out to International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards 5 and 6, on different floors.

A clean lift linking the two areas has an integrated fan filter to avoid contamination and the need for researchers to de-gown between the two spaces. There is also a viewing window to put the research of the super material on show to the public.

Enabling experiments with complex M&E

Gas, specialist chemical supplies and standard electrics and ventilation are required in the research rooms. “The scale and sophistication of the institute’s M&E systems would not have been possible without a forensically-detailed BIM model.” states Tony. “It has been an indispensable resource in securing speed, efficiency and early clash detection within M&E apparatus”.

The BIM model is now being used to manage this highly-serviced building.

A slick exterior

The cladding had to reflect the futuristic research being conducted inside the building. So we perforated black Rimex stainless steel with hexagons to match the form of graphene. And we enlarged particular hexagons to create a pixelated image the formula discovered by Nobel Prize winners Geim and Novoselov.

Soft Landings

Manchester University foresaw the benefit of Soft Landings and sought a focused and coordinated aftercare service. In collaboration with BAM Construction, BAM FM has provided a Soft Landing Technician on site to receive training, provide feedback, fine tune systems and ensure the proper operation of the new facility.