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Unusual first framework job for architect at Durham University

Construction work has now concluded on a project at Durham University, which is the first project that award-winning architect, Howarth Litchfield, picked up after its appointment to the North East Universities Purchasing Consortium’s Construction Professional Services Framework agreement - but it was not an every day commission.

The firm provided architectural, principal designer and building design services to create the mosquito laboratory and refurbish Laboratory 5 in the Biological Sciences Building for invertebrate research purposes.

Mosquito laboratory and Invertebrate laboratory 5 was won after a further mini competition under the terms of its framework appointment. Through its extensive experience gained over 40 years, the firm had already been responsible for relocating a locust house at Newcastle University, which made it well placed to undertake this latest job.

This area of invertebrate research is considered to be vibrant with significant potential for funding and interest from high profile publications. To ensure that Durham supports its recently appointed research staff through the provision of appropriate facilities, the university wished to modify existing laboratory spaces within Biosciences to facilitate the molecular biology and genetic modification of invertebrate model organisms: fruit flies Drosophila melanogaster, mosquitoes and nematodes C.elegans.

Working in partnership with mechanical and electrical engineers, JH & Partners, in relation to the building services element of the contract, construction concluded in readiness for the new academic year.

The laboratory 5 is 100m2 and the Mosquito Lab in the basement is 23m2. The mosquitoes are housed in a specialist incubator unit in the basement rooms with special door interlocks and air curtains to prevent the little insects flying away; similar measures are also in place in Laboratory 5.

As Howarth Litchfield’s technical director, David Pickersgill explains, the project was quite challenging: 

“We were working on the lab within an existing building which was in use for some of the time over the duration of the contract.  

“As our first project under the terms of the NEUPC framework, it certainly proved to be a memorable one.”

Martin Huitson, Senior Mechanical Engineer in the Estates and Facilities Department, Durham University, said: “We are pleased to see the project successfully concluded. Throughout, we actively encouraged collaborative working between the designers and construction team on this traditionally procured lab refurbishment project.”

Adam Beach
Article by Adam Beach
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