16 January 2019

– The £300m development will strengthen the University of Cambridge’s position as a premier site for physics research and learning

– The building is designed to support collaboration and foster innovation

– Ceremony attended by the University’s Vice-Chancellor and RIBA Vice President, Practice & Profession

Bouygues UK, one of the country’s leading construction companies, and the University of Cambridge, have marked the start of work on a new £300m state-of-the-art physics laboratory and a neighbouring shared facilities hub.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge Professor Stephen Toope and Caroline Buckingham, RIBA Vice President, Practice & Profession, were joined by guests from the University, Bouygues UK and the local community for a ground-breaking ceremony to mark the start of works on the Cavendish Laboratory site.

The development, at the West Cambridge campus off Madingley Road, will provide a purpose-built centre for world-leading physics research, bringing together all of the Cavendish Laboratory’s research groups under one roof. The flagship building of the new Cavendish Laboratory will be named the Ray Dolby Centre, in recognition of a £75 million gift from the estate of sound pioneer Ray Dolby.

With a GIA (Gross internal area) of around 354,000 sq ft (33,000 sq m), the Ray Dolby Centre will house a range of laboratories, offices, clean rooms, workshops and multiple lecture theatres. The basement area will incorporate specialist acoustic and vibration treatments to achieve the stringent control criteria necessary for operating equipment highly sensitive to vibration. There are also challenging criteria to be met in relation to temperature and humidity control and EMI (electromagnetic interference) protection. An independent 50,000 sq ft (4,700 sq m) Shared Facilities Hub, will provide catering, collaborative teaching, meeting, study and library spaces to the campus.

Beyond the technical aspects, particular attention has been paid to the environment, with both buildings designed to achieve a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) Excellent rating.

The project will help strengthen the University’s position as a leading site for physics research and will provide a top-class facility for the nation, with much of the research equipment made available to other institutions.

The building has also been designed to encourage collaboration and will host public events to support the extensive programme of work with schools, and the general public.

The new development will combine with the department of Physics’ new strategic plan and research goals. The building, and new strategic plan, represent a renaissance of the way the department carries out physics research and achieves its research goals. The spirit of adventure and innovation will be fostered in the Cavendish tradition, but adapted to the new needs of frontier research.

Fabienne Viala, Chairman of Bouygues UK and UK Country Manager for Bouygues Construction, said:
“Bouygues UK and our sister company Bouygues Energies & Services have been involved from the start on this exciting scheme, working alongside the University of Cambridge’s existing project team to develop proposals for a new world-class laboratory. It is exciting to break ground on this project that will see us bringing innovation, a collaborative approach and our technical expertise to create a new home for major academic research.”

Professor Andy Parker, Head of Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge said:
“This is a great step in the development of physics research and learning at the University of Cambridge. We look forward to moving in to our new facilities and opening our doors to the wider research community and the public to increase understanding and foster discovery.”

In addition to the gift from the Dolby family, the new Cavendish Laboratory is made possible by £75 million of funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The new facility is expected to be completed in 2022.

Cambridge is a key location for Bouygues Construction in the UK. Bouygues UK was the main contractor for The Triangle, the new home for Cambridge Assessment, the University of Cambridge’s international exams group. Bouygues Energies & Services also has a long-term energy partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council to help it reduce its costs and carbon footprint.

Ground breaking at Cavendish laboratory © Phil Mynott


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About the Cavendish Laboratory

The original Cavendish Laboratory was established in the centre of Cambridge, in 1874 and was named in honour of the Chancellor of the University, William Cavendish. The Cavendish name has been synonymous with the physics department, and members of its staff have made many contributions to the development of science over the past 140 years, including understanding electromagnetic phenomena used in everything from motors to broadcasting, the discovery of the electron, of the neutron, the unravelling of the structure of DNA, and the discovery of pulsars. The physics department moved to new Cavendish Laboratory buildings in West Cambridge in the early 1970s.