A new neuroscience research building at Oxford University’s John Radcliffe Hospital accommodating the UK’s first dedicated centre for prevention of stroke and dementia.
The Wolfson Building is a three-storey building housing a mix of laboratory, office and meeting/seminar space. It provides purpose-built facilities for the Wolfson Centre for the Prevention of Stroke and Dementia (CPSD), as well as research space for the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging (WIN).
Procured through Oxford University Estates Services, the project required the involvement of multiple stakeholders. Price & Myers was appointed by the University of Oxford and successfully liaised with the Oxford University NHS Trust which own the land and run the hospital and the two end user organisations: the Prevention of Stroke and Dementia (CPSD), and the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging (WIN).
We chose a steel frame structure with precast concrete floors, with the aim of minimising the build programme as much as possible. This also reduced disruptions to the busy operational hospital adjacent and provided an efficient open plan framing arrangement giving flexibility to modify the internal layout in the future. The site sloped quite considerably from one end to the other and hence a split ground-floor was cut into the slope.
Retaining walls on three sides of the lower ground floor were constructed using contiguous bored piles, as driven solutions were deemed to be too disruptive to sensitive laboratories in adjacent buildings. The retaining walls could also be constructed with only minimal temporary propping, allowing the substructure and the ground floor works to commence earlier.
The articulated façade is not only visually striking but functional; the building is naturally ventilated with acoustically-attenuated louvres within the façade reveals, and strips of full height glazing providing good levels of natural light into each space.
One of the key challenges was providing natural ventilation to the building - typically requiring a close controlled environment - while also considering the constraints of University security concerns around conventional, operable windows. This was further complicated by acoustic requirements due to the proximity to the major access roads in the hospital.
To deliver all the competing requirements, an innovative, bespoke, integrated louvre with thermal dampers and acoustic attenuator was designed to provide fresh air while mitigating noise break-in from the surrounding. This system was carefully integrated into the façade design, allowing the deep reveals to provide solar shading to the windows. This ventilation system also provides an effective night purge system which is integral to the sustainability strategy. Individual controllers are provided for every louvre to open and close, for occupant-independent control and improve thermal comfort.
Due to the number of different elements, the façade needed to bring together four different packages of work - glazing, terracotta cladding, rainscreen panels and the louvre boxes. Price & Myers led the design of the secondary steel framing system to support all four elements while avoiding thermal bridges and allowing for weather tightness, acoustic protection and an intricate interface with a complex facade system. This was achieved while maintaining the required aesthetic, both internally and externally, of the original concept – complicated by the fact that the façade elements didn’t always align. Mock-ups were developed and tweaked on-site to ensure the best detailing was implemented.
The building has been rated BREEAM Excellent. When benchmarked to the RIBA 2030 challenge, the project resulted in the Net Operation energy surpassing the 2020 targets and coming extremely close to meeting the 2025 targets.