Medical Research Council

Background to specification

As a birthplace of modern molecular biology, where the sequencing of DNA was pioneered, the new MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge required special planning – and not just for the 27,000m2 of fully air-conditioned space designed to house 440 scientists.
The new building by RMJM architects was to be completed by BAM Construction in 2012, the entire project costing over £200 million. The new building would continue LMB’s unique work to understand biological processes at molecular level, with the aim of using this knowledge to tackle specific problems in human health and disease. That work has attracted nine Nobel prizes shared amongst 13 LMB scientists.

Key criteria

Innovation was not limited to the two laboratory blocks and central atrium. Even the stormwater attenuation required a highly creative solution to the site’s unique characteristics, where no surface water can run off at all. Drainage is generally shallow, running into soakaways around it, so the system had to be installed at very little depth and provide the required storage without additional pumps.
This ruled out plastic systems because of lack of strength, and also concrete, whose thick wall construction would affect gradients. However, steel constructed Tubosider systems drastically reduce the wall thickness and were therefore approved at an early stage. We sent an initial design to BAM Construction for confirmation, then detailed drawings and quotations to subcontractor AD Bly Construction.

Solution & benefits

In terms of installation, Tubosider pipes are also considerably lighter than concrete, and easily manoeuvred by a 360 excavator or crane once on site. The stillages of pipes were well stacked, and supported for transport. A larger machine was required to off load the pipework, which is no different in size to its equivalent plastic pipe.

Although the pipe couplers needed special offloading by hand to protect painted surfaces, AD Bly found Tubosider’s service notably better than other suppliers, with everything from design to delivery sent through quickly and complete.