Sir William Henry Bragg Building, University of Leeds

A landmark building has brought together numerous engineering and physical sciences on one interconnected site for the first time, providing an impressive range of environments to support the University’s world-class teaching and research. 

Project details

  • Customer: University of Leeds
  • Architects: ADP / BAM Design
  • Delivery Architect and MEP: BAM Design
  • Cost management and quantity surveyor: Gardiner & Theobald
  • Engineering services: Curtins / Arup
  • Mechanical and electrical services: Silcock Leedham / BAM Services Engineering

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New home for multidisciplinary research and teaching  

The new Integrated Campus for Engineering and Physical Sciences is the University of Leeds’ largest single investment for over half a century. The complex project involved constructing the new Sir William Henry Bragg Centre for Materials and Imaging – a multidisciplinary research and teaching campus – as well as creating a bridge to link the new building to the adjacent Old Mining Building, which has been entirely rebuilt and extended behind a perfectly preserved Grade II Listed façade.

The team faced a series of challenges when it came to building on a tightly constrained city centre site, during the Covid-19 pandemic. During in 2020 and 2021, work continued on site at reduced capacity, with BAM implementing a number of safe working protocols in line with the UK government’s social distancing advice. 

When it came to the construction, using innovative techniques and modular elements, including a pre-cast concrete frame, enabled BAM to deliver the 16,200m2 project safely and efficiently.

The University of Leeds is committed to delivering one of the UK’s biggest capital investment programmes, with over £300 million already spent on new education, research, residential and leisure facilities. On top of this, the University has devoted a further £80 million into improving its existing assets.


The flagship project in this masterplan is the Integrated Campus for Engineering and Physical Sciences: completed and delivered by BAM in Spring 2021. The striking design of the new building complements the surrounding Grade II Listed buildings, including the art deco Old Mining Building, which dates back to 1932.

Advancing science

In the heart of Leeds, an impressive run of neoclassical buildings stretches along one side of Woodhouse Lane – home to the University’s physical sciences activities including materials and imaging, computing, physics, astronomy and engineering – a seamless blend of historic and modern hi-tech facilities. 

The newest building is named after Sir William Henry Bragg (1862-1942): a former professor at the University. Sir William was a physicist, chemist, mathematician and sportsman who scooped the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915 with his son Lawrence, for their work on X-ray analysis of crystal structures.

New life for a historic building

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, BAM successfully delivered the new campus in early 2021. Work began with partial demolition and stripping out of the existing buildings, including dealing with contaminated soil and asbestos. 

The art deco façade of the Old Mining Building was retained and restored, but behind the 1930s exterior BAM constructed an entirely new building with a bridge connecting the upper floors with the new-build research and teaching block.

Inside the shell of the old building, new floor layouts and services were needed to make the building fit for purpose in the 21st century. Additional teaching and research spaces were added with the two-storey roof extension.

Smart working on a compact site

Across the new bridge, a brand new five-storey building houses a wide range of high-end research and engineering facilities. BAM used a precast concrete panel frame for the lower levels, with a lightweight steel construction on the upper two levels, to accommodate plant and services. 

The precast panels were delivered flat packed and installed on site by just 25 people. Pouring concrete in-situ – as originally envisaged – would have involved closer to 100 workers. This approach not only also saved up to 12 weeks on the programme, but also reduced costs considerably. 

The site for the whole development was very tight: sandwiched between historic buildings and a busy road on a live university campus. BAM’s traffic management and access plans for plant and vehicles had to take sensitive account of on-going teaching, studying, exams and research activities all around the build.

Planning for services

The BAM services engineering team played a key role in the project, ensuring that the practical demands of laboratories with extremely tight tolerances in terms of environmental air conditions. 

This involved developing an extremely detailed BIM 3D model, over many months, and working closely with client teams to refine the technical needs for each area, capture and co-ordinate installation requirements. This was vital to ensure that academics were satisfied that curriculum needs were not only being met, but future-proofed.

Many of the mechanical and electrical services in the building are visible, so the team ran ‘photo realistic’ workshops with the modelling team and users to make sure that architectural considerations were effectively balanced with practical operational and maintenance requirements.

The main plant room was built off site in six sections, then craned into place and connected in just three weeks. Carried out using a traditional approach, this work would typically have taken around ten times longer!

Controlled environments

A key aspect of the delivery was the creation of clean rooms in the extensive basement area to house the most sensitive and precise instruments and equipment. These are effectively treated like clinical spaces, as they need to be totally free from all potential contamination from dust, vibrations and electro-magnetic fields.

The team created a series of plinths in the basement for key items of specialist equipment; with under-floor services connected to each of them via the plinth and closely managed airflow circulating through the space where they are contained. 

Some pieces of equipment are also housed in sealed rooms lined with ‘Mu-metal’, a specialist ferromagnetic alloy used for shielding sensitive electronics.

Creative space 

An important requirement for the new building was the creation of space for innovation and incubator activities. BAM excavated a large area of the basement as ‘fallow space’ that the University can rent out for these kinds of activities and use to generate funding in the future.


This remarkable development has scooped a number of awards including:

  • Building Project of the Year at the 2021 Constructing Excellence Yorkshire & Humber Awards
  • Winner in the Heritage Project category for Yorkshire & Humber at the RICS UK Awards 2022
  • Shortlisted for the Architects’ Journal Awards 2022, in the Higher Education Project of the Year (over £20m) category
  • Highly Commended in the Civic Trust Awards 2023
  • Winner of the Association of Noise Consultants’ Acoustics Award 2021 

“The superb facilities in the Bragg Building will allow us to engineer materials at the atomic and molecular scale, and undertake internationally-leading science and engineering. It will also allow us to strengthen further our extensive interaction with academia and industry, and build new research partnerships.”

Professor Edmunds Linfield

Director, The Bragg Centre for Materials Research

“This is the largest single project that the University has undertaken since the 1960s, and the result is stunning. The building is a testament to the University’s investment in its research capability for decades to come. It also creates a vibrant and collaborative space for academics and students to share knowledge and experience.” 

David Oldroyd

Senior Project Manager, University of Leeds Estate Services