NIAB Sophi Taylor Building

Harpenden, UK

NIAB Sophi Taylor Building

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany was founded in 1919 through the initiative of Sir Lawrence Weaver, the Commercial Secretary of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, to promote improvement in the varieties of seeds, plants and crops, agricultural methods, and encourage discovery and investigation into treatment, interventions and improvements within the seed industry.

The Institute’s headquarters has remained in Cambridge since its formation, but has operations and seed trials throughout the UK and Europe. One of these sites, Park Farm, is situated on the northern outskirts of Cambridge and accommodates a significant glasshouse facility, outdoor standing for plants, and farm trials. Often a destination for visiting farmers, breeders and academics, it was clear to NIAB that a dedicated visitor centre was required at the farm to receive guests.

The new building, funded by a significant legacy left to NIAB by Sophi Taylor, sits within the centre of the Park Farm site and provides a seminar space, meeting rooms, a kitchen, and a large reception space for events. Designed to minimise its environmental impact during construction and use, it has received BREEAM’s highest environmental rating of ‘outstanding’ – one of only a few buildings in the UK to receive this rating at the time of its completion.

A low carbon approach led to the use of cross laminated timber as the primary structure, which is exposed internally, and recycled aggregate within the concrete foundations. The building envelope has high levels of thermal insulation, windows are triple glazed, and the building also features photovoltaic panels, a low energy ventilation system, and rainwater harvesting. Heating is provided by the existing site biomass boiler. All materials and products incorporated into the building and the surrounding landscape were very carefully sourced to ensure they have minimal environmental impact.

The Sophi Taylor Building is designed to be zero carbon in use.

“Paul has been working closely with the National Institute of Agricultural Botany for over a decade and in that time, he has completed numerous projects. Our visitor centre, which achieved a BREEAM rating of ‘outstanding’ has been immensely successful for NIAB.”

David Neill
Chief Operating Officer, National Institute of Agricultural Botany

Project Details

Client National Institute of Agricultural Botany
Area 320m2
Completion 2014
Sustainability Rating BREEAM Outstanding
Project Manager Burnley Wilson Fish
Structural Engineer Ramboll
Environmental Engineer Couch Perry Wilkes
Landscape Architect Jamie Buchanan
Cost Management Burnley Wilson Fish
Led by Paul as a director of rhp