The University of Southampton

Topping out ceremony marks milestone for new Mountbatten research complex two years after serious fire

Published: 5 November 2007

Just over two years after fire destroyed a world-class research facility at the University of Southampton, the new research building that is under construction to replace it has been ‘topped out’ in a traditional ceremony marking the fact that the building has reached its highest point.

On Friday 2 November, Dame Valerie Strachan, a Pro-Chancellor and also Chair of Council at the University, placed the final trowel of concrete into a specially prepared mould on the roof of the building. She was joined by managing contractors Bovis Lend Lease; project managers White Young Green/Trench Farrow; and the design team headed up by IDC.CH2M Hill, with architects Jestico + Whiles and structural engineers Gifford. Representatives from the University of Southampton and members of the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) and the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) were also there to toast the new building.

In a slight variation to the tradition of placing a yew branch on the building to bring good luck and prosperity to the occupants, Bovis Lend Lease donated a yew tree which will be planted in the communal roof garden. 

The new research facility provides extensive clean rooms, laboratories and office accommodation for the University’s School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) and the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) and replaces the original complex that occupied the site before it was destroyed by fire in October 2005. 

Office accommodation on the upper levels of the new building will be linked by common meeting areas, including a rooftop terrace and a cafeteria. A glazed atrium will link the new building with the existing Zepler building.

The glass panels in the building carry an unusual fractal pattern which was inspired by research undertaken by Professor Nikolay Zheludev from the ORC in collaboration with Dr Darren Bagnall and Dr Adrian Potts in the ECS. The original fractal structures developed by the team were lost in the fire but the pattern has been re-born as a decorative feature on the new Mountbatten building. The researchers are examining chiral fractal nanostructures and the influence that these designs have on the polarisation of light. Their research, which could have applications in optoelectronics, laser physics, and optical communications, will be continued in the new building.

Dame Valerie Strachan, Chair of the University’s Council, commented: 'The topping out ceremony marks the beginning of the final stages of creating this innovative 21st century research complex, which will be a fitting home for the University's academics, research students, and support staff working in exciting fields such as nanotechnology and optoelectronics. Within these state-of-the art facilities, including clean rooms and laboratories, the University will continue to carry out some of the most advanced research in these areas.' 

Graeme Forbes, Head of Bovis Lend Lease Technology said: ‘We are delighted to have reached this major milestone at the Mountbatten Complex and to be on schedule and on budget for delivering this exciting new research facility for the University of Southampton. The project team has applied many modern techniques to integrate the design and construction into a seamless delivery process and we are pleased with the results and added certainty this is bringing to the project.’ 

Building work on the £55m complex is due to be completed in the summer of 2008. Research is anticipated to recommence in the building by the end of 2008 and once fully operational, the Mountbatten complex will complement and further enhance the University’s status as the centre of world-class research in the UK. 

Notes for editors

About the Mountbatten complex

The design of the new Mountbatten complex was commended by Southampton City Council planners for its stylish use of colour and form. Externally the glazed cladding features the use of a geometric curve for the full length of the building.

Internally, the four storey space will contain a cantilevered feature staircase in polished concrete to complement the external architecture. The use of fully glazed clean rooms and laboratories at the lower levels allows visitors to view the facilities without entering those areas.

The foundations of the clean rooms and laboratories have been rigorously designed to eliminate the transfer of unwanted vibrations from the ground into the building. The building’s Green credentials include the use of natural stack ventilation instead of air conditioning and grey water recycling systems which also support the building’s cooling systems.

About the University

The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. It is one of the UK’s top 10 research universities, offering first-rate opportunities and facilities for study and research across a wide range of subjects in humanities, health, science and engineering. The University has around 20,000 students and over 5000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £310 million.

The University is one of the country’s top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine, and has a strong enterprise agenda. It is home to a range of world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, and the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.

About the Optoelectronics Research Centre

The Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton is one of the largest university-based research groups entirely devoted to optoelectronics in the world, and has maintained a position at the forefront of photonics research for over four decades. Its long and well established track record in the fields of optical fibre, lasers, waveguides, devices and optoelectronic materials has fostered innovation, enterprise, cross-boundary and multi-disciplinary activities. It has built strong links with industry, research institutions and universities around the world, from informal collaborations to large-scale funding. Several spin out companies, including Southampton Photonics Inc, Stratophase Ltd, Mesophotonics Ltd and ChG Southampton Ltd, have commericalized the fruits of ORC research; while its extensive outreach programme has brought lasers and optical fibres into schools across the country.

About the School of Electronics and Computer Science

With around 500 researchers, and 900 undergraduate students, the School of Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton is one of the world's largest and most successful integrated research groupings, covering Computer Science, Software Engineering, Electronics, and Electrical Engineering. ECS has unrivalled depth and breadth of expertise in world-leading research, new developments and their applications.

Posted by Marketing Officer, on 2 November 2007

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