GlaxoSmithKline’s carbon neutral lab achieves BREEAM Outstanding

GlaxoSmithKline’s carbon neutral lab achieves BREEAM Outstanding

The chemistry laboratory was built to catalyse new collaborations with industry and is a landmark development on the University of Nottingham’s Jubilee Campus.


Part-funded by a generous donation from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), this building has a unique design and focus: world-leading research activity in sustainable chemistry. The laboratory achieved a BREEAM rating of Outstanding (94.1%) and was shortlisted for a BREEAM award in 2017.


GSK’s carbon neutral laboratory for sustainable chemistry aims for the highest “clean and green” standards. It provides opportunities for closer collaboration with UK industry and for developing a wide range of collaborative research programmes, outreach activities and international visibility.

The University of Nottingham engages, encourages and educates new audiences by using it as a teaching laboratory. It’s a flexible facility and regional hub for chemistry education, offering local schools and colleges access to a working laboratory along with technical support to conduct experimental science. This gives them access to facilities and instruments not routinely available within the classroom environment.

The facility was constructed with the support of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, the University’s largest ever fundraising appeal to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. The campaign facilitated a £12 million grant from GSK as part of their ‘green chemistry’ commitment first announced in 2010. The Wolfson Foundation also generously donated £750k to the project.

The GlaxoSmithKline carbon neutral for sustainable chemistry laboratory interior.
The GlaxoSmithKline carbon neutral for sustainable chemistry laboratory interior.


The building scored highly in the BREEAM assessment due to its innovative solutions. It achieved full credits in the Water and Materials Sections of BREEAM and scored at least 90% in the Management, Energy, Land Use & Ecology, and Innovation sections.


Early stage sustainability targets were set in cooperation with the University during the during the project’s definition stage. During conceptual design, the client established a target rating of Outstanding.

The principal contractor registered with the Considerate Constructors scheme to ensure they conducted all activities in an environmentally and socially responsible way. This also reflected its intent to manage the construction site in an environmentally sound manner in terms of resource use, energy consumption, and pollution.

Through construction and beyond, the team developed tools to support the ongoing performance and operation of the building. They produced a building user guide that covers all functions and uses of the building. This will ensure that the innovative building systems perform in use as they were designed to maximise their benefits.

A display screen in the foyer shows real time data on energy consumption and generation and produces monthly energy use reports. This gives building users the tools to manage energy use and target their efforts to reduce energy in the most beneficial areas. This aims to reduce the “performance gap” between the building as designed and in operation.

Health and wellbeing

Each laboratory has its own separate mechanical ventilation system which serves fume cupboards, ventilated cabinets and ventilated storage. Supply is delivered through fabric ductwork at high level. Generally ventilation airflows are modulated to suit the actual space requirements to help minimise fan energy, heating and cooling demands. Natural ventilation strategies work in conjunction with mechanical ventilation strategies. The carbon neutral laboratory is naturally ventilated, which is unusual and unique for a laboratory. Fresh air intake and exhaust air discharge are supplied and controlled via the roof-mounted wind catchers, which are prominent visual features for the project.

The project aimed to integrate these lower energy strategies while maintaining a high level of thermal comfort and occupant satisfaction. Thermal modelling was carried out in accordance with CIBSE AM11 the maintain the internal comfort of the building users.

The fume cupboards were designed manufactured, type tested, installed and commissioned in accordance with BS EN 14175, to protect laboratory users from hazardous or noxious vapours that could be produced inside the fume cupboards.


Energy comes from renewable and low carbon sources such as the photovoltaic (solar) array on the roof and sustainable biofuel combined heat and power system. The building creates more energy than it needs, and the excess heats a nearby office development on campus. This arrangement offsets the embodied CO2 emissions of its construction over a 25 year pay back.

The design also features energy efficient equipment and laboratory systems. The project achieved 15 credits and 5 innovation credits under BREEAM Ene 01 and used this as an Alternative Compliance Path to receive full point value for LEED Energy Performance, On-Site Renewable Energy and Green Power credits. The building also includes LED lighting with a building average of 5.4 Watt/m2.

The building has sub-meters for major energy consuming systems, including: space heating, domestic hot water, cooling, fans, lighting, small power, IT room, lifts, and laboratories. A three-year measurement and verification exercise ensured that the building operates and performs as it was designed to, and investigated areas for further energy savings.


The project’s campus location encourages users to travel by public transport. The building is served by multiple bus services connecting it to the wider Nottingham area and major transport hubs. This translates to an accessibility index score of 12.27 using the BREEAM 2011 Tra 01 Public Transport Accessibility calculator. The project did not add any new parking.

There are amenities and services nearby including cafes, libraries, a sports centre and a student union, which reduces the need for multiple journeys.

There are new cycle spaces, shower and changing facilities, and sheltered cycle storage which will be accessible from the street to the front of the building.


The project achieved full credits in the water category. For Wat 01: Water Consumption, water consumption is estimated to be just 5.47 m3 per person per year. This represents a 63.99% improvement in water efficiency compared to the baseline for the building.

This was achieved through the use of water efficient fittings alone, without complex or energy intensive water recycling systems. Further water savings include the project’s green roof which consists of drought tolerant, native species that do not require an irrigation system to be installed.

All major water uses are separately metered within the building so that building management can identify any high use activities. A leak detection system alerts building managers to potential issues during operation.

Materials and waste

A carbon model was created early in project design to guide product specification and construction to focus on low environmental impact over the full life cycle of the building. This early stage strategy helped the project team to achieve all credits under the materials section.

Timber features prominently in the building’s unique design and was sustainably sourced through PEFC and FSC certification schemes. The building has been recognised by the Structural Timber Awards 2016 for the innovative use of timber.

The building also met the BREEAM efficiency benchmark for waste generation.

Land use and ecology

The project was developed on land that was previously occupied by the Raleigh factory. Some contaminated land was identified by a specialist, who recommended a remediation strategy, including: a clean capping layer for asbestos contamination, restriction of infiltration through contaminated source areas, and ground gas protection measures. This land would have otherwise remained contaminated and undeveloped.

The project team appointed an ecologist for the project to assess site conditions and produce recommendations for monitoring and improving biodiversity through construction. The ecologist also generated a strategy to enhance site ecology. Bird boxes and a biologically diverse green roof on the project provide a welcoming environment for local species and led to a change in ecological value of +3.83. Site clearance works were scheduled to avoid impact to bird breeding season. A five year landscape management plan manages protected habitats on site to continue to maximise the positive ecological impacts of the building.


The project team used specialist equipment to decrease greenhouse gas emissions due to refrigerant leakage from building systems. The chillers use R1234ze which has a global warming potential of less than 1, yielding a low Total Direct Effect Life Cycle CO2 emissions (DELC) of chiller equipment.

A flood risk consultant was appointed to analyse surface water run-off from the site and minimise water course pollution. Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) minimised discharge off the site along with the green roof, a dry swale, trapped gully, and filter drains. The design also anticipated climate change and modelled the 100 year storm event and associated discharge rates in order to minimise surface water runoff.

Light pollution can be compromising for health and disruptive to ecosystems and can spoil aesthetic environments. Detailed photometric plans and calculations ensured that the external lighting installations met ILE guidance for reducing light pollution.


Other innovative works on the project included the creation of a carbon assessment calculator, which focused on life cycle embodied carbon emissions of products on the project. This tool helped to guide early stage specification of sustainable materials for the building and featured timber heavily in the design. The buildings’ net zero goals, low energy laboratory systems, and natural ventilation strategies are also particularly innovative for a laboratory use type.

Summary Morgan Sindall


Morgan Sindall
FDG Fairhursts
Building Services:
BREEAM New Construction 2011 – Higher Education
BREEAM rating:
Outstanding (94.1%)

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