University of Cambridge Plant Sciences
The Department of Plant Sciences is based on the University’s Downing site in the centre of Cambridge in a building constructed in 1904 and extended in 1934. It was originally the home of the School of Botany. The three-storey building has a load-bearing masonry perimeter, with a central double spine of steel column running along the longitudinal axis of the original building.
The changing requirements of the University’s departments, together with the need to upgrade the mechanical and electrical services and the building fabric to comply with current standards, has meant that all of the buildings on the Downing site have seen significant internal remodelling during their life. The Department of Plant Sciences building is no exception and has seen significant work at all levels to open up the original cellular arrangement and provide laboratory spaces suitable for teaching and research.
This challenging project, on a very restricted site in the centre of the city, was to construct a new research laboratory with write-up spaces on the roof of the building. The fact that the roof accommodates the building services plant serving the three floors below, which would need to continue to operate throughout the construction works, made this project particularly challenging. The project required a significant enabling works phase to construct a temporary roof over the building together with temporary service plant decks before the existing roof could be prepared to receive the new structure.
The new research laboratory, with rooftop views over Pembroke College to the west, provides a home to Professor Sir David Baulcombe’s research group. Facilities include an open plan laboratory for 30 people, special equipment rooms, growth rooms, a dark room, a radioisotope laboratory, write-up spaces and a series of small offices.