Contractor chosen for Cavendish III physics laboratory

17 October 2018
Ramboll will oversee the quality of design work and construction on behalf of the University of Cambridge.
Cavendish III building from JJ Thomson Gardens - Image Jestico +Whiles

Cavendish III building from JJ Thomson Gardens - Image Jestico +Whiles


Ramboll. Lynden Spencer-Allen. Image courtesy of Paulina Sobczak Photography

Lynden Spencer-Allen

Technical Director
T: +44 7436 542 678

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Ramboll developed the civil, structural and vibration engineering concept for the University of Cambridge’s Cavendish III physics laboratory and neighbouring shared facilities hub building, which will be delivered by Bouygues UK. The British subsidiary of Bouygues Construction has been selected as the main contractor for both buildings.

Located on the West Cambridge campus, Cavendish III will be a purpose-built laboratory for world-leading research for the university’s Department of Physics, bringing the large number of research groups in the department together under one roof to encourage collaboration. 

With an internal area of approximately 33,000m2, Cavendish III will house a range of laboratories, offices, clean rooms, workshops and multiple lecture theatres. The basement area will incorporate specialist acoustic and vibration treatments to achieve the stringent control criteria necessary for operating equipment highly sensitive to vibration. 

Ramboll has advised on the vibration design of the building to achieve a highly stable environment for investigations at the atomic scale. The building has been designed with the future in mind, with Ramboll providing engineering solutions for the building to be adapted in later years to meet changing research demands.

There are also challenging criteria to be met in relation to temperature and humidity control and EMI protection. 

Ramboll has been involved with the department since 2014, working with them to define the technical brief for the building, before being awarded the civil, structural and vibration engineering design commission for the project. Through architects Jestico + Whiles Ramboll are also responsible for the acoustic and fire engineering design.

The independent Shared Facilities Hub, with a net surface area of approximately 4,700m2, will provide catering, collaborative teaching, meeting, study and library spaces to the West Cambridge campus. The hub will bring academic, support and research staff together with the undergraduate and PhD communities. 

Shared Facilities Hub from JJ Thomson Gardens - Image Jestico +Whiles

Beyond the technical aspects, particular attention has been paid to the environment; both buildings have been designed to achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating. 

Construction on the two buildings is set to begin in early 2019 following infrastructure works which commenced at the end of August 2018. The project will be brought to completion over the next four years. 

As the project moves into the construction phase, Ramboll’s role changes from engineering design to client monitor . Alongside Ramboll and Bouygues UK, the project team also includes; Jestico+Whiles, architects and lead consultant; Jacobs, technical architects; Hoare Lee, M&E Engineers; Currie & Brown, Project Managers; Aecom, Cost Consultants; and NBBJ and BDP as design partners. 

Professor Andy Parker, Head of the Cavendish Laboratory at The University of Cambridge, said: “This is an exciting step forward for the new Cavendish Laboratory, which will serve as a home for physics research at Cambridge as well as a first-rate facility for the UK as a whole – much of the specialised research equipment in the new building will be made available to other institutions. This world-class facility will meet the educational needs of future generations of students much better than is possible at our existing site and its design also facilitates public events, enabling us to continue our extensive programme of work with schools and the wider public.”

Lynden Spencer, Ramboll Technical Director, comments: “We are very excited the project has reached this significant milestone and is moving into construction and realisation. We have worked very closely with the Users and project team to produce a design that will achieve the extremely demanding technical specifications required for the Physics research to be carried out whilst also being a fantastic place to work and visit.

"The project is undoubtedly complex and we have relished applying our extensive experience of similar buildings as well as developing new tools and approaches to solve the challenges of this unique facility. We will now be actively working with the contractor and their designers to ensure the finished building is of the highest quality and sets a new benchmark for Physics and Science buildings.” 

About the Cavendish Laboratory

The original Cavendish Laboratory was established in the centre of Cambridge, in 1874 and was named in honour of the Chancellor of the University, William Cavendish. The Cavendish name has been synonymous with the physics department, and members of its staff have made many contributions to the development of science over the past 140 years, including understanding electromagnetic phenomena used in everything from motors to broadcasting, the discovery of the electron, of the neutron, the unravelling of the structure of DNA, and the discovery of pulsars. The physics department moved to new Cavendish Laboratory buildings in West Cambridge in the early 1970s.


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Artist impression of aerial view of Cavendish III and Shared Facilities Hub design, University of Cambridge. Image: Jestico + Whiles

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