National engineering specialist, SES Engineering Services (SES), has completed a critical stage of enabling works at the University of Oxford as the former Tinbergen Building is demolished to make way for a new world-class education and research centre known as the Life and Mind Building.

The team has completed the commissioning and handover of a new prefabricated modular fume extraction plant room. This will enable students to continue their lab work and studies unimpeded throughout the construction phase for the new building.

The plant room, built to a high technical specification with air handling equipment to deal with fume and solvent extracts, measures 15m x 10.8m (162m²) in size and was delivered over the last year during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to the plant room, SES’ specialist teams also delivered significant remodelling of the University’s chemistry and teaching laboratories as part of core enabling works for the main contractor, demolition and enabling firm Erith Contractors.

Steve Tovey, SES’ regional business director, Midlands & South West, said that the large footprint of the plant room meant that it had to be located on one of the University’s sports fields adjacent to the building and the dense environment of the campus called for modern methods of construction to successfully design and erect the facility.

He explains:

“Our Prism Offsite Manufacturing facility team were engaged to design and manufacture the plant room, needing to take account of the complex ventilation plant and associated services as well as the site logistics resulting in a 2-storey sectional solution. We were able to manufacture the plant room modules offsite with everything aligned in the factory ahead of being delivered to site, including the mast and towers, this saved 944 labour hours on site and resulted in minimum disruption and maximum safety for everyone involved – particularly while working throughout the pandemic, to reduce the risk of transmission.

“This is a high-performance facility, so great care and attention was required to successfully erect the plant room and then seamlessly reconnect it to existing chemistry and teaching labs. We have a long history of delivering technically complex science and research building services at SES, so we were lucky to have some wonderful expertise across the business to call upon to ensure the success of this project.”

Steve Tovey
Regional Business Director, Midlands & South West, SES Engineering Services

The Tinbergen Building was named after the Dutch biologist Niko Tinbergen who began teaching at Oxford in the late 1940s.

The next stage of enabling works is set to take place between the existing Peter Medawar building and the Tinbergen site, to establish the infrastructure for the new facility ahead of the main works beginning later this year.

The Life and Mind Building will be a world-class centre created for the pursuit of life and mind sciences, and a home for the University’s Departments of Experimental Psychology, Plant Sciences and Zoology.

Richard Turner, Operations Director at Erith Contractors, said:

“For the Tinbergen project to be carried out throughout such a difficult year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, where the organisation and co-ordination of a large number of M&E specialist trades are key, of which SES were a major player, is a real achievement and a credit to all involved, to have completed the works on programme.”

Richard Turner
Operations Director, Erith Contractors

Steve Joyce, SES’ Managing Director concludes:

“It’s a real privilege to be part of such a high profile project which is of global importance in terms of the critical work and research which will take place in the new building.”

Steve Joyce
Managing Director, SES Engineering Services

SES’ broader science and research experience spans across high-profile clients including The Pirbright Institute, The Quadram Institute, GSK and the NHS.