Ultra-clean environment for pioneering nanocomposite manufacturing research centre

A state-of-the-art research facility was required for the new International Institute for Nanocomposites Manufacturing at WMG at the University of Warwick – the first institute of its kind in the world. A team of 50 nanocomposite researchers works here to develop innovative manufacturing technologies to enable industry to make large-scale nanocomposite parts.

By choosing a Portakabin off-site Design and Build solution from the Portakabin Group, the university was able to radically reduce the programme time to just 14 weeks on site.

Designed by Cullinan Studio, the two-storey £2.3m scheme was manufactured at the Portakabin Group production centre. The 28 steel-framed modules were then craned into position on campus.

The exterior walls of the modules were designed to create a dust-free, clean and easy-to-maintain environment for nanocomposite testing.

The building houses advanced R&D facilities with highly complex M&E services. It uses extensive renewable technology to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. It has three laboratories with factory-installed high-performance concrete floors and full-height uPVC hygienic wall linings.

“The use of a Portakabin Design and Build off-site solution was an ideal choice for this project because it is fast, efficient and cost effective. We were also impressed with the sustainability advantages of the approach, particularly the fact that it produces up to 90 per cent less waste to landfill than on-site building methods and uses less embodied energy.”

Wen Quek, Project Architect, Cullinan Studio

There is a 9m-high central processing hall with an in-situ poured concrete floor to support specialist equipment, as well as offices and an open-plan research area. A swipe-card access control system was installed in each room for enhanced security and the laboratory was fitted with fume cupboards and an extraction system.

Externally, the building has secondary perforated cladding for a high-tech appearance, and a mono-pitch roof.

Steve Walker, Senior Project Manager at University of Warwick, says: “Considering the extremely challenging timescale we were working to for this project, the whole process was made very straightforward for us.

“The laboratories are spacious and the performance of the building overall has exceeded our expectations. It is as good as any site-based building project. Off-site construction suits nanocomposite manufacturing very well.”

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