Revitalizing Research

On a rapidly revitalizing research campus, the new BBSRC National Vaccinology Centre: The Jenner Building, sets a new precedent for sustainability, adaptability, contextual materials and the quality of the research experience.

The Pirbright Institute is a world-leading centre of excellence in the research and surveillance of viral diseases of livestock and of zoonotic viruses that spread from animals to humans. The Jenner Building brings together 100 scientists from three different UK facilities into a purpose-designed and adaptable new home.

It is the second facility completed within an ambitious masterplan that re-works the Pirbright Institute’s disparate agglomeration of buildings into a coherent, forward-looking campus. To encourage research collaboration, new buildings will be sited around a collegiate model of open, landscaped spaces; the Jenner Building anchors the southern side of one of these new quadrangles.

The facility was designed in close collaboration with Pirbright Institute staff, supported by a ‘rapid prototyping’ approach that explored design and organisational strategies at increasing levels of detail. The extensive use of visuals, 3d models, full-scale mock-ups and reference visits engaged with a diverse range of stakeholders and ensured occupant buy-in.

The linear building is rationally organised with open laboratories to the north, to take advantage of daylight and showcase science to the campus; specialist laboratories, engineering and utility spaces along the centre, in a service-intensive zone where daylight is less important; and offices and collaboration space to the south, for natural ventilation and scenic views.

An impressive brick colonnade on the west side draws visitors from the campus to the main entrance and frames picturesque campus and heathland views.

The laboratory and office workplace design supports quiet, concentrated work by individuals alongside space for group collaboration. Internal travel distances have been minimised, and the adaptability of spaces and services will allow for changes in research programmes and group sizes over time.

The building comfortably achieved ‘BREEAM Excellent’ certification through a passive design approach, a focus on occupant wellbeing and renewable technologies. Measures include exposed concrete soffits for thermal mass, automated façade vents for night-time cooling, rainwater harvesting, extensive use of LED lighting, air source heat pumps and a large-scale photovoltaic array at roof level.

Awards and Publications


Construction News Award shortlist
Guildford Design Awards
S-Lab Award shortlist


Building, “Cost model: Life sciences buildings,” 22 February 2019
The Architects’ Journal, “First look: NBBJ’s high-tech home for scientists,” 28 March 2017
Laboratory News, “Pirbright Institute opens new centre,” 28 March 2017