Life Sciences building forms a new landmark on Bristol skyline

  • 20 Nov 2014

In a speech to over 200 guests, staff and students, Sir David said: “We in Britain have been leaders in understanding the Life Sciences and you will be the leaders of tomorrow.  

“Nothing could be more important in the area of scholarship than this. Understanding the natural sciences and the processes that brought us here – these things bring joy and resonance and happiness to our lives.  

“This great building will give you and its graduates pleasure for the rest of your lives. It will play an important role in tackling the great problems and difficulties that the world is going to face in your generation.”  

The building is the University of Bristol’s biggest construction project to date

The Life Sciences building is the University’s biggest construction project to-date and will be the focal point for globally-leading research, needed to tackle the key challenges of the 21st century such as food security and environmental conservation.  

Sir David was shown some of the pioneering research work happening inside the building, and even tried some wasp produce as part of an interactive exhibition. In addition to unveiling a plaque to mark the opening, he also helped to plant a tree in the newly landscaped gardens.

Three years of construction work

Work to construct the 13,500m2 iconic Life Sciences building began in July 2011 and it has just welcomed its first intake of students.  

A total of 2,000 people have worked on the project, including 28 architects from ten countries.  

Professor Sir Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, said:  “We’re delighted that Sir David has helped us mark this significant milestone in the University’s history.  

“Many of the most significant advances will come from the Life Sciences and it is fitting that Sir David joined us for the launch of this magnificent building, which will put Bristol on the map for world-renowned research and teaching in this area for years to come.”  

Sir David Attenborough opened the new building in October

The building, designed by architect Sheppard Robson and built by VINCI Construction UK, forms a new landmark on the Bristol skyline and has a terrace with views across the city.  

Patrick Finch, Bursar at the University of Bristol, said: “This building and its surrounding public realm has represented the most ambitious project taken on by the University’s Estates Office to-date.  

“That it has now been successfully handed over to form a wonderful new home for staff and students is a testimony to a strong ethos of team working between staff in Estates and in the School of Biological Sciences, consultants and contractors. I am immensely proud of the team’s achievement, which should set a standard in the sector for many years to come.”  

BREEAM Excellent rating

This flagship project showcases the best in sustainable design and energy efficiency and it has been designed to achieve the environmental accreditation BREEAM Excellent and represents a major part of the University’s drive to provide energy-efficient laboratories.  

Heat from the laboratories’ ventilation systems is reclaimed and re-used; rainwater collected from the roof is used to flush the toilets; blinds lower automatically when the sun shines and lighting has been designed to avoid pollution of the night sky.  

Some 2000 people worked on the project including 28 architects from ten countries

To reflect the research being carried out inside, the exterior of the building is home to a striking vertical garden, called a living wall, which stands over 20m above street level. It is home to 11 different species of plant, plus boxes for birds and bats, and creates the pattern of a microscope image of algal cells.  

A state-of-the-art greenhouse, known as a GroDome, sits on top of the building and is capable of recreating tropical conditions thanks to controlled light, humidity and temperature.  

The Life Sciences building also has one of the largest teaching labs in the country, capable of teaching 200 students at once. There are multiple screens to ensure all students can see, close-up, what the lecturer is doing while moveable walls can change the size of the teaching space.  

A five-storey laboratory wing boasts acoustic chambers for bat research, an insectarium, labs for studying ant and bee behaviour, spectroscopy and microscope rooms.

Construction of the Life Sciences building began in July 2011

Peter Cole, Regional Director for VINCI Construction UK, said: “The unique facilities within Life Sciences will enhance students’ learning and enable them to be part of a globally-led research and development hub. We are delighted to have been involved with this prestigious project for the University of Bristol and would like to thank all associated with the project for their support in achieving its successful completion.”

The space around the building has also been redesigned thanks to Nicholas Pearson Associates, with 21 trees and 3,215m2 of shrubs and grasses.  

The development site consists of a 0.9 hectare area on the corner of Tyndalls Avenue and St. Michaels Hill, in the heart of the University’s precinct. Two Grade II listed features of the site were retained – the frontage of the former Children’s Hospital and the Ivy Gate which leads to Royal Fort House and gardens, a nationally significant archaeological site having been developed as a bastioned fort during the English Civil war in 1642.

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