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Living Systems Institute, University of Exeter

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 new building brings departments previously spread across the University’s Streatham campus together under one roof: its design the culmination of 10 years of learning, innovation, and experience of research buildings.

The main building functions of ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ research spaces are separate but connected by generous multi-storey circulation spaces that spark formal and informal collaboration.
The variety of workspaces facilitate flexible working and encourage further ‘accidental’ meetings between scientists, researchers, postgraduates, and professors.

Prolonging the usable lifetime of the building was vital. Detailed scenario planning for the general lab clusters ensured they could be adapted to suit a range of research requirements, from general use to robotics and neurophysiology research. By dropping services from the ceiling or confining them to the lab perimeter we were able to free up floor space and keep it flexible.

Opportunities to socialise and relax are provided on the landscaped terraces which have been carved into and around the building. Incorporating hard and soft landscaping they offer superb, elevated views across Exeter.

Throughout the design process, we talked to people from across the university, including core academic groups. These discussions influenced the building structure, materials used, façade artwork and routes through the campus.

We worked closely with artist Nicky Hirst to create an artwork illustrating genome patterns for the glazing on the building’s primary façade. Not only beautiful, but practical too, helping reduce solar gain.

Project details

Project name: Living Systems Institute, University of Exeter

Location: Exeter, UK

Value: £20M – £50M

Scope: Architecture

Clients: University of Exeter

Status: Complete

Completion date: 2016

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 - Winner

Education Estates Awards 2017
Innovation in Delivering Value - Winner

RIBA Awards 2017
South West and Wessex Regional Award - Winner

If you want to know more about our education and research work, contact Negar Mihanyar

If you want to know more about our education and research work, contact Julia Roberts