Unity Campus Phase 2

NHA were tasked by the Howard Group to help them realise the greenest lab development in the South Cambridge cluster. Within the strategic framework established by the NHA masterplan the second phase of development at Unity Campus will provide 88,000 sq ft of Life Science commercial space and is a radical step forward in lab design innovation. The third and final phase will later complete the campus.

By combining our experience of commercial speculative development, together with our track record in laboratory design, NHA challenged the long established model of “ultimate flexibility”, which for decades has led to uneconomic and unsustainable lab buildings. Unity Campus Phase 2 will be a significant step forwards towards exemplifying a lower carbon approach for laboratory design.

Phase two maintains the strategy for a pedestrian focused campus of streets and squares, whilst maintaining vehicular access to service laboratories. The undulating roadway provides access whilst slowing traffic and creating enlarged landscape amenity areas that relate to the main entrances of buildings A1 and A2. The back of house facilities, including dedicated service vehicle parking, enclosed back yards, gas bottle storage and space provision for cryogenic storage and back up power have all been upgraded into the Phase 2 design.

The architectural design strategy has created a simple building typology with a clear plan based on a 6.6m grid and a single core for high quality CAT A shared facilities. All landlord plant is screened and accommodated at roof level.

Over the long term, this will be a place where great science is done, we attract great businesses doing amazing things that are changing people's lives
Nicholas Bewes, CEO, Howard Group

Approach to Sustainable Lab Design

Having created high quality laboratories such as the Richard Doll Building, NHA have a long established track record in delivering cutting-edge scientific research facilities. For the second phase of development at Unity Campus, the design challenge stemmed from the need for speculative development of three multi-occupant lab buildings.

After extensive research into what level of landlord provision was appropriate, a key decision was to limit the landlord mechanical ventilation to six air changes per hour (6ACH) within the labs. This allows for a solid platform on which most life sciences users can carry out their research. The ability for tenants to further upgrade the ventilation was integrated into the design strategy. The result is a shared approach to flexibility, where the landlord base provision does not have to cater for every possible eventuality for a unknown tenant brief.

The space planning strategy is based on a 6.6m grid which allows for a large variety of laboratory fit-out options which were tested at the design stage. More recently, this strategy has proved to be capable of meeting the stringent demands for effective and efficient use of space by tenants.

The design of the structure has been highly integrated into the lab strategy. A 50% GGBS flat slab concrete frame (with precast columns and walls) option was chosen over steel as it was a lower carbon solution which could provide ultimate flexibility. The slab thickness was opitmised due the relatively small spans of the columns on a 6.6m square grid. Within the external walls the columns are formed as 200mm x 800mm blades which have a 200mm wide notch in the slab adjacent to allow for drainage pipes which hook up with the locations of the lab benching perfectly.

Drainage is provided throughout the lab portion of the buildings in such a way that each floor can have dedicated waste pipes that allow tenants to manage their own trade effluent license inspections.

Architectural Design

Taken together, the three buildings share a strict design code whilst giving each its own identity. Buildings A1 and A2 share an identical modular cladding with extruded fins of differing bronze tones whereas Building B is clad in a dark grey soft metal standing seam cladding.

The design intent of the building envelope is to provide occupants with a healthy and attractive internal environment. The elevation design places windows at 3.3m typical centers to align with the spaces between lab benches to provide excellent daylight. This allowed low cills at approx. 500mm above floor level and high window heads just under the slab level. Transoms are located to allow for ceilings and lab benching to pass in front of glazing should this be needed by the fit out. The windows can provide manually operated natural ventilation where desirable. The gable ends are afforded large expenses of curtain walling to take advantage of the views but are shaded with external brise soleil.

Under the cladding the external wall design for all three buildings is identical. The modular design employs factory made timber SIPS (Structural Insulated Panel System). These were selected because they could minimizes embodied carbon in comparison to steel framing systems. The SIPS are located outside the concrete frame to provide a continuous wall minimizing cold bridges and maximizing the air tightness. A 60 minute fire rated SIPS with mineral wool insulation and cementitious boarding to both sides was selected. Recently the panels have been air tested and found to provide 1.02m3 air tightness at 50pascals.

Our Team

Project Team

  • Client: Howard Group
  • Contractor: Morgan Sindall
  • Project Manager: 3PM
  • Quantity Surveyor: CB3
  • Structural & Civil Engineer: Conisbee
  • MEP Engineer: Hoare Lea
  • Planning Consultant: Shrimplin
  • Landscape Architect: Fira