Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Building (Phase 2)\

Reimagining new biochemistry

A high quality, flexible home for world-leading scientific research in the heart of Oxford City Centre

Completing the second phase of a 13 year project for the University of Oxford, the new, 281,477 sq ft multi-disciplinary life sciences building consolidates research previously undertaken in six different buildings around Oxford into one building, with high specification labs placed alongside specific spaces for focused work, collaboration and knowledge exchange.

The Challenge

Now used by approximately 1000 researchers, the building brings together a combination of structural biology with world-leading biochemistry, pathology, physics, life sciences physiology and engineering. The building is equipped with cryogenic electron microscopy, and the third floor has been enabled for future use as chemistry accommodation.

Phase one of the new life sciences building - which won an RIBA National Award in 2009 - is recognised as an early and influential expression of a new paradigm for laboratory design in the sector. The building was one of the first to pair a robust and flexible specification for wet labs, with comfortable and collaborative write-up space linked to a sociable circulation space in the main atrium that encourages encounters between research teams.

“The communal laboratories and shared interaction spaces of our new building foster productive interactions that will catalyse future breakthroughs of the same magnitude”

Professor Matthew Freeman University of Oxford

Our challenge was to understand the advances in research practice that have occurred in the intervening years between the building's two phases. As such, the lab typologies now reflect the development of an increasingly multi-disciplinary research process, accommodating multiple lab types within one facility, and by ensuring the facilities can operate flexibly as a ‘lab hotel’.

The project concludes the two phases of construction by creating one whole, completed building, wrapped in a colourful and extensively glazed façade that showcases the science within for the passers-by of the University of Oxford’s Science Area.

“This is a fantastic example of teamwork and collaboration, all under the control and management of our Capital Projects team, whose dedication and skill played a huge part in ensuring it was completed ahead of schedule and under budget - a particularly striking achievement given the unprecedented challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Paul Goffin Director of Estates, University of Oxford


To capture the pioneering research happening within the building, we have created a series of artworks which invoke the building's distinctive identity:

'40 Winks', 'Rosalind & Raymond', 'A Good Night's Sleep'.

  • Project Details
  • Sustainability
  • Lessons Learnt
  • Under Construction

Project Summary

Project Team

M&E: Hoare Lea
Structures: Pell Frischmann
Project Management: CPC
Acoustics: Sandy Brown
Sustainability: Hoare Lea


New Biochemistry was designed when there was no standard BREEAM form for laboratory buildings and therefore not required. Several sustainable features were included, such as PVs integrated into the rooflight, rainwater harvesting, natural ventilation of the atrium using the stack effect, shading to south facing spaces using artworks and highly efficient laboratory VAV air supply systems. The energy use of New Biochemistry was optimised during a Post Occupancy Evaluation process, and lessons have been learnt from this process have informed the Phase 2 design.

Although BREEAM Excellent was the initial requirement for the Phase 2 project, a study was done on the payback of the credits required to reach this target versus re-investing the capital cost. The decision was taken to target Very Good and instead focus on paying for systems that would reduce the overall energy use of the building.

A Passivhaus study has also been done on the project to research how the standard would have affected the design decisions made on the project. It has been an interesting process as we have worked with the Passivhaus Institut to establish a set of targets that are tailored to the high equipment load of the project. A clear line of separation between laboratory and write up areas has been employed, which means the write up areas are actually acting passively, due to their perimeter location. Other aspects of the design such as the inclusion of triple glazing and enhancement of air tightness, and although the Passivhaus standard would require these to achieve the comfort criteria, they show negligible payback on energy use.

We are currently achieving a 30% improvement on Part L 2013, despite using an envelope design that was developed over ten years ago. This has been achieved by integrating lessons from the Passivhaus study, pushing the envelope detailing and integrating lessons learnt from Phase 1 on the management of energy within the laboratory areas. An extensive rooftop PV array has also been proposed.

Lessons Learnt

Benchmarking process undertaken for this project led to the development of the HE Briefing Tool.

Under Construction

The project is currently programmed to start construction by the summer 2018.

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