Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge

Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge

Client: Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge
Type of works: Fläkt Woods are supplying ventilation services, utilising advanced energy-recovery technology.

Fläkt Woods has won a substantial contract to provide the ventilation services for the prestigious new £200 million headquarters building of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) (*1) in Cambridge, utilising advanced energy recovery technology, available for the first time in the UK.

The building is located on the edge of the current hospital site, on the expanding Cambridge Biomedical Campus. Its design consists of two kinked laboratory blocks joined by a central atrium, in a shape reminiscent of a chromosome. The total usable area will be approximately 27,000m2 of fully air-conditioned space, on three main floors.

The building will be fully sealed and will rely on mechanical air conditioning to provide the appropriate level of fresh air and internal temperature control. Fläkt Woods is supplying 12 large EU air-handling units complete with EQRS(*2) total enthalpy wheels each delivering 18.5m3/s of air into the buildings. The airflow is balanced to allow doors to remain always open.

Fläkt Woods has worked closely with the contractors and the project designers to create a ventilation design to meet the project’s exacting requirements. This is the first major project in the UK to utilise the Company’s TE3 wheel, which includes the 3 angstrom molecular sieve technology.

The EQRS is an extremely efficient total enthalpy thermal wheel which exchanges both sensible and latent energy between outgoing and incoming air. They are the most efficient rotors on the market today, with both sensible and latent efficiencies of up to 85%.

There are several notable features of the building’s design. All heavy plant servicing the building is housed either in a separate energy centre, or in the four stainless steel-clad towers linked to the building. This removes weight and sources of vibration from the laboratory itself, allowing a more lightweight construction.

Between the floors are full height Interstitial Service Voids, which house all the ductwork, pipes and services. An external energy centre will contain chiller plant, boiler plant, water storage, HV/LV transformers and emergency generators. The energy centre will connect to the building through two underground tunnels.

The building will be glass-clad. Heat build-up is reduced by automatic venetian blinds, between the standard double glazing and an outer glass skin. Other energy-saving features include a ground source heat pump to exchange heat with the ground, and automatic control of lights to reduce intensity when daylight is available.

The building is designed to house 440 scientists. The main laboratories are in 1,000m2 modules, each housing 40 bench workers, together with offices and local equipment rooms. Benches are double length (4m for two people), in 3.3m wide bays.

There are many windows onto the atrium, which can be crossed at four points on each level allowing easy access and appreciation of the layout of the building. Glass-fronted lifts at either end give an overview of the entire 20m high space. Within the atrium, offices and seminar rooms are positioned at the two central crossing points

Director of the MRC's LRB, Dr Hugh Pelham, commented: "It is extremely gratifying to watch the stunning designs take shape and see the potential of the new building realised before our eyes. Our scientists will make the discoveries of the 21st century in this world-class research centre."

*1 The LMB is one of the birthplaces of modern molecular biology and their aim is to understand biological processes at the molecular level, with the ultimate aim of using this knowledge to tackle specific problems in human health and disease.

*2 EQRS can also maintain equally high sensible and latent efficiencies under harsh operating conditions. It achieves this thanks to a unique transfer core in the winding of the rotor. The cells are created using an aluminium substrate that is coated with a fast acting transfer media with a 3 Angstrom molecular sieve that makes the rotor hygroscopic.

The coating on the rotor traps and then releases moisture in the same way as heat is captured and released. The transfer media has a very high affinity for water and an enormous internal area for binding water to its surface. Since the opposing air flows have different temperatures and water contents, they also have differing surface pressures and vapour contents. This difference in vapour pressure provides the driving force necessary to transfer water vapour.

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