Living Systems Institute\

Innovation through collaboration

The Living Systems Institute provides a world-class facility with the ethos of inter-disciplinary and collaborative research firmly at its core.

The challenge

Key to the success of the building is providing a collaborative working environment, bringing together different disciplines to facilitate innovative fields of research. In keeping with this ethos of collaboration, Living Systems provides a variety of different workspaces to facilitate flexible working patterns and encourage happenstance meetings between scientists, researchers, postgraduates and professors.

As the building has emerged out of the ground, fantastic new views across the Exeter Valley have been revealed, making this one of the most dramatic construction sites we have worked on.

The big idea

The designs for Living Systems build on 10 years of learning, innovation and experience of research buildings. The tension between laying out spaces in a way that encourages interaction and collaboration, set against the need to provide an efficient and effective working environment has been explored fully. The layout breaks down the main building functions of ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ research spaces into separate building masses, connected by generous multi-storey circulation space that doubles up as spaces for both formal and informal collaboration.

To ensure maximum utilisation is achieved, we have implemented a series of space saving and sharing ideas in the building. This has particularly focused on the laboratories which are both expensive and notoriously under-used.

Working from the inside out

The interior design scheme is focused on providing a clean and clinical atmosphere in the laboratories with a richer palette of materials used in office, write up and informal areas of the building. The main circulation routes and social spaces are all populated with furniture that encourage informal meetings and provide an alternative work environment.

An artist's perspective

We have enjoyed working with artist Nicky Hirst to develop a façade design that says something about the research happening within the building.

Project Summary

Project Team

Project Manager: Mace
Contractor: BAM
M&E: Hoare Lea
Structures, Civil, Acoustics: Aecom
Fire: Exova
Laboratory Consultants (pre-contract only): Abell Nepp
Landscape Architects: Illman Young


  • Building Forum - Building of the Year Awards 2017 - John Bracey Building of the Year - Shortlisted
  • Education Estates Awards 2017 - Project of the Year - Shortlisted
  • Education Estates Awards 2017 - Innovation in Delivering Value - Winner
  • RIBA Awards 2017 - South West and Wessex Regional Award - Winner
  • ICE South West Civil Engineering Awards 2017 - Shortlisted
  • BD Architect of the Year Awards 2017 - Higher Education - Shortlisted
  • BD Architect of the Year Awards 2013 - Education (Sixth Form - University) - Shortlisted

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