29 January 2019
New Case Study: GSK Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry
Set within the University of Nottingham’s Innovation Park, the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry is a prominent, eye-catching structure; its unique character is expressed externally through four timber-clad ventilation towers and a pitched roof whose north side, overlaid with a green roof system, slopes forwards to encircle the entrance, creating a sheltered courtyard. It is this view that first greets researchers, students and visitors as they arrive – but it requires a closer look to understand the true character that permeates every aspect of the building design.
The secret is in the name: ‘Carbon Neutral’. It was GSK’s intention to develop a laboratory which was built from natural materials, could run on renewable sources of energy, and would provide enough carbon credits over 25 years to offset the construction phase. As a result, the designers have met the highest ‘clean and green’ standards to minimise environmental impact at every step of the design process: on the south side of the pitched roof lies an expanse of photovoltaic panels and the interior environment is carefully considered, with a natural ventilation system and a 125kWe biofuel combined heat and power (CHP) system. For their efforts, the structure was rewarded the highest levels of sustainable building certification – BREEAM Outstanding and LEED Platinum. Two years on from its completion and the laboratory continues to stand up as an exemplar of sustainability.
The structure itself consists of glulam frame and cross-laminated timber (CLT) made from spruce throughout. 500 x 500mm glulam columns extend the full height of the building and support 960mm deep glulam beams on a typical 10.35 x 6.6 metre structural grid. CLT forms the floors, structural walls and roof deck. Traditional timber to timber connections were generally used to reduce the quantity of steel in the building, and any steel dowel fixings were capped with oak plugs.
In total, the building spans 4500 square metres and includes – over its two floors – five teaching and research laboratories, write-up space for about 100 researchers, dedicated instrument rooms, a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) suite, space for school outreach activities, and a long, open mezzanine connected to a winter garden via a timber staircase. Intended as a catalyst for new industry collaboration, each space is designed to function as a research ‘hotel’, emphasising the sharing of facilities. The glulam frame and CLT are generally exposed, which supports a warm ambiance far removed from the crisp, clinical atmosphere of most laboratories.