The Verdict is In: The Plowright Building is a Game-Changer!

The Pirbright Institute ushers in a new approach to containment

March 17, 2015 - Peer review is one of the cornerstones of good science. And a jury of “peers” has spoken regarding the HDR-designed Plowright Building, home to the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) National Virology Centre at The Pirbright Institute in Sussex, England. In addition to receiving the Judge’s Award from the British Construction Industry (BCI) in October 2014, the facility has recently been honored with two significant awards in the US.

The Plowright Building received Special Mention in this year’s prestigious Lab of the Year competition. The award, sponsored by R&D Magazine, is the ultimate award for science buildings, recognizing excellence in research laboratory design, planning, engineering, and construction. Only three firms received an award this year out of over 30 submissions from around the world. The award will be presented to members of the design team at the Laboratory Design Conference in Atlanta, GA at the end of April, and will be featured in the May issue of R&D Magazine. In addition to this honor, the project was recognized with a Platinum Building Team Award (one of only two platinum awards this year) by Building Design + Construction Magazine. This award emphasizes not only the design, but the team work that it takes to achieve it. It will be featured in the April issue of BD+C.

From the earliest stages of this project almost ten years ago, the design team worked diligently to realize a completely new paradigm for biocontainment, a vision that began with a simple question: “What about windows?” From here, the goal quickly solidified to redefine expectations of biocontainment, one in which researchers would have natural light, views, interaction with others outside their group, and a cafeteria—all within the containment envelope.

The Plowright Building turns the conventional box-inside-a-box model inside-out, putting people at the center. From outside, it is clear that this is a revolutionary facility—not a conventional, sterile containment environment. The use of wood timber paneling, multi-colored window casings, transparent glass panels, and a metal brise soleil helps to brand the Plowright Building as a new, vibrant place to work. Inside, the atrium offers a feeling of spaciousness, while the labs are clinical, but with pockets of color. The creative architecture expresses its function through exuberant details that reveal the technologies and construction of containment. Alexander Hewitson, Program Director, BBSRC says “The building is a catalyst for changing the culture of The Pirbright Institute moving into the 21st century and beyond.”