The science behind success as Pirbright is crowned top at BCI Awards

The BBSRC National Virology Centre: The Plowright Building, constructed and engineered by leading built environment specialist Shepherd at The Pirbright Institute in Surrey, has won the Judges’ Special Award at the prestigious British Construction Industry (BCI) Awards held yesterday evening (8 October 2014).

Given to the building or civil engineering project of any size which the judges consider to be particularly inspirational in one or more aspects, the accolade recognises the unprecedented level of technical ingenuity that went into the build of these state-of-the-art high-security bio-containment laboratories.

The £100 million plus project, funded by government via the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), has provided the Institute with a world-class facility to carry out vital scientific research. This cements its reputation as a world-leading centre-of-excellence in the surveillance and control of viral diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans.

Recognising outstanding achievement in building and civil engineering projects, the annual BCI Awards, held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, are the ultimate celebration of the industry’s achievements and represent the pinnacle of excellence in British construction and engineering.

Classified at Category Level 4 (CL4), the highest possible level of bio-containment for animal pathogens, the judges remarked that the “incredibly impressive” project was “an example of British planning, design, engineering and construction already attracting worldwide scientific interest”.

The pioneering new laboratories will play a vital part in driving the Government’s vision to stimulate the UK economy through science innovation and infrastructure.

The project was delivered on time and on budget by Shepherd and represents an unparalleled technical accomplishment for the built environment sector.

As one of the world’s most advanced bio-hazard containment facilities, Shepherd had to deliver a ground-breaking solution which could meet the complex challenges of the project. Key achievements include outstanding air tightness levels 1,100 times tighter than applicable building regulations and at four times the pressure to maintain air pressure control and provide the required containment environment.

The Pirbright Institute fought off stiff competition for the Judges’ Special Award from projects including the British Museum World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre, the Manchester School of Art, the London Aquatics Centre and WWF UK’s Living Planet Centre headquarters.

In order to guarantee certainty of delivery and a zero failure approach, Shepherd built its own separate research and development facility on site before full construction commenced.

Representing a UK-first, this took the form of a full replica of a category 4 laboratory, enabling Shepherd to test the proposals prior to construction and to interrogate the design solutions through to a full cause and effect.

Given the challenges of working to such a unique design brief, the necessity to get every design component flawlessly accurate was a major consideration for Shepherd. The collaborative partnership between Shepherd, The Pirbright Institute and the project supply chain, known as ‘Team Pirbright’, was also an integral factor in the overall success of the project.

Mark Perkins, CEO of Shepherd, said:

“This critical project has significantly raised the bar for science and research facilities on a global scale, so we’re delighted it has been recognised with the coveted Judges’ Special Award.”

“Not only will The Pirbright Institute leave a long-term legacy for the science community, the inspiring and practical spaces created by our construction and engineering teams have set an industry benchmark in the built environment.”

“From the very start of this project we appreciated the importance of delivering this high value asset for the Institute to the best possible standard. Our tireless approach to this brief has enabled us to create a visionary point of reference for ground-breaking design and engineering, which underlines the science and research sector’s pivotal role in the growth of the UK’s economy through global biological advances.”

Dr Michael Johnson, Head of Engineering and Estates at Pirbright, concluded:

“Receiving the Judges’ Special Award for the BBSRC National Virology Centre represents the climax to what has been a uniquely challenging project.”

“Not only will our new state-of-the-art facilities enable us to drive forward our vision to control and eradicate devastating virus diseases of livestock and viruses that spread from animals to humans, it will also allow for the planned future development of the Institute campus.”

“Ultimately, this will help us to continue to protect the UK economy, our food security and the welfare of animals and humans, both nationally and internationally.”

BCI Awards project judge and editor of New Civil Engineer, Mark Hansford, commented:

“The calibre of this year’s winning projects experience leaves you in no doubt whatsoever that this is an industry that excels.”

“It is a proud feature of the awards that every UK shortlisted project gets a visit from our judges and the energy and enthusiasm shown by the project teams was incredible.”

“Their passion for their projects, and the way entire project teams – client, architect, engineer and contractor – frequently came together as one was remarkable. Often, during visits, it was impossible to tell who was the client and who was the contractor, the engineer, the architect. The shared passion for excellence was striking.”

“Across the board there are satisfied customers, revelling in buildings or infrastructure projects delivered on time, on budget, safely and with whole life costs firmly in mind.”

“Special congratulations to the ultimate winners – as you are truly remarkable.”

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