Mathematical Institute


The University of Oxford Mathematical Institute is currently spread across several sites; the new Mathematical Institute building will allow all people to be based in a single location. It provides workspace for a diverse community of more than 500 mathematical researchers and support staff, including faculty, research fellows and postgraduate students. It will also be a centre for the academic life of approximately 900 undergraduates. The live project has been certified BREEAM Excellent at the Design Stage. The project forms part of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter development, which is one of the most significant developments the University of Oxford has undertaken for more than a century.

Steve Holland, Project Leader for Laing O'Rourke Construction, tells Industry Image how the principles of considerate construction have become this project’s minimum standard.

The project commenced on site in August 2011 and will complete in June 2013. The project comprises of two storeys below ground and five storeys above. The basement is contained by secant piles with a raft slab forming the basement level. Ground source heat pumps are sunk below the raft to supply temperature control to the building. The basement is predominantly a car park fed by two car lifts, and also contains the Energy Centre and Plantrooms. The mezzanine houses the lecture theatres with adjacent seminar rooms.

This challenging project has been simplified by collaboration with enablers such as BIM and establishing a principle of off-site manufacture, producing components for the structure, façade, services and fit-out. The structure utilises twin wall and precast concrete lattice planks, with post tension slabs and integrated services. The envelope comprises unitised cladding with reconstituted stone and brise soleil. The roof terraces at various levels, and is a mixture of flat roof, green roof, atria roof and balconied areas. Five cores serve the floors with a mixture of stairs and lifts, along with feature stairs and bridges spanning across the atriums.

The ground floor houses two large glass structures (crystals) which filter light into the mezzanine common areas below. The upper floors are predominantly office accommodation and the external landscape is in keeping with the surrounding buildings forming natural courtyards and includes penrose paving.

Incorporating the Scheme into the site

The principles of considerate construction has now become the minimum standard. The challenge is to be intelligent and innovative, in leadership, in site establishment, management and engineering of the construction solution; which we take great pride in as an engineering enterprise.

The Considerate Constructors Scheme forms part of our core organisational policies, and on the Mathematical Institute Project, we actively engage with a number of local initiatives that encourage young people such as Headstart and STEMNET.

Headstart is a programme offered to 6th form students by the Oxford Department of Engineering Sciences to promote the awareness of the importance and challenge of careers in technological industry. STEMNET helps encourage young people to become well informed about science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Our people work as ambassadors for the organisation and facilitate practical sessions on site.

Communication with neighbours and the public is critical to inform interested parties in all aspects of the scheme and progress. This is achieved by posting a fortnightly online update describing progress made on the site and highlighting forthcoming events on the Oxford University website and displaying information at the boundary of the site. There is also a live webcam of the scheme.


Challenges on the Project

Having a common entrance with other University buildings, it is critical that all deliveries are co-ordinated and advised in advance. Early on in the project there was the excavation of the basement which amounted to 50,000m3 of soil being removed from the site. This involved a fleet constantly on turn around. A holding area was established to ensure the common entrance road was not blocked. Lorries were loaded, their wheels cleaned and released from the site at set intervals to avoid bunching on the surrounding roads. The transporting activities had to be planned and managed to very specific time slots. Haulage was also parked up on site over night to fit in with the scheme.

Working next to student accommodation and colleges meant that quiet periods were introduced and we co-ordinated site activities with adjacent accommodation and college officials, such as during exam periods.

Good Practice

With the Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) principles, and many aspects of the construction premade; this enabled the structure / façade / services units to be controlled under factory conditions and resulted in considerably reduced transportation. With the off-site manufacture, this also reduces the volume of personnel on site and the time taken to construct the project. The benefits also include less noise on site, less wastage, and assured quality.

Other initiatives on-site include the one-to-one interview with each person that joins the project to encourage a more personal approach to safety. This forms part of achieving “Mission Zero” which targets the vision of eliminating accidents on site.

The ethos is to ensure that high standards and good practice are valued as the minimum.

For more information on this project, please click here.