Using Innovative Pre-Fabrication Technology to Deliver High-Performance Laboratory Buildings

Oliver Milton, Hawkins\Brown
Matthew Ollier, Hawkins\Brown

The University of Oxford is in the process of delivering a $750m capital program. Much of this is for laboratory facilities in central Oxford, inserting large highly technical buildings into historically sensitive and constrained sites.

Hawkins\Brown, the University's architects, will share lessons and observations from two key projects - a 250,000sqft Biochemistry Building and a 90,000sqft Physics Building.

Biochemistry has been delivered in two phases 10 years apart. As such it offers a unique perspective in how the trends in global research facilities and pre-fabrication opportunities have evolved.

Physics delivers a combination of experimental and theoretical research space in one building. The theoretical areas have been developed to deliver a unique collaborative research model. The experimental areas contain some of the highest performing technical laboratory spaces in the world. This level of performance has required significant innovation in design of the engineering and architectural systems.

The projects are landmark projects for the University and have won many awards for their design, sustainability and delivery methodology. They have both broken the mold in the way they enable collaborative research and provide highly technical laboratory environments. Despite their bespoke and onerous requirements, both projects have used pre-fabrication extensively to improve quality, reduce waste and time on site, and minimize disruption in construction.

Oliver and Matthew will illustrate how a process-driven approach to pre-fabrication can be integrated into bespoke, highly technical and creative design proposals.

Learning Objectives

  • Recognize the influence of the DfMA (Design for Manufacture and Assembly) market on the construction industry;
  • Identify the need for and benefits that pre-fabrication can bring to projects;
  • Identify process driven opportunities for DfMA and integrate these into high quality, creative design proposals; and
  • Demonstrate an understanding of behavioral changes required within the design and procurement processes to successfully employ DfMA methodologies.


Oliver is one of the leading architects working in the UK Education and Research sectors. He is a Senior Partner of Hawkins\Brown and leads the practice's Education and Research team. His buildings have received wide recognition most notably five national RIBA awards including buildings at Oxford University. Alongside his project work, Oliver leads the innovation group within the practice, looking at how architects can use new digital tools to improve processes and design.

Matthew is an experienced architect with a particular specialism within the Education and Research sector, designing and delivering highly technical award-winning research facilities for many of the premier institutions in the world. Matthew has been leading the development of Hawkins\Brown's presence in North America, managing the new studio in Los Angeles and seeking to translate our multi-sector European expertise to the North American market.


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