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'Astounding' Beecroft wins RIBA National and Constructing Excellence awardsSlide - Beecroft Building

In June the Beecroft Building was named as one of the UK’s finest new buildings, winning a prestigious RIBA National Award.

‘[It] is an immaculately designed addition to Oxford University,’ the judges commented. ‘As the first new building to the Physics Department in 50 years, it has completely transformed the capabilities and working behaviours of one of the largest physics departments in the world. A sophisticated, erudite design that is testament to the project team’s close alliance and hard work. An absolutely astounding space in which every scientific detail has been thought through and delivered with a finesse and refinement that is incomparable.’

The triumph follows the Beecroft’s victory in the regional RIBA South Awards earlier in the summer, after which it went on to be named RIBA South Building of the Year, beating 16 other regional winners. These are among the most prestigious accolades that a new building can attain. The Beecroft will now be considered for the RIBA Stirling Prize for the year’s greatest new building, announced in October.

The Beecroft also won a Constructing Excellence SECBE Award, in the Integration & Collaborative Working category. These awards focus on excellent design, construction techniques and working practices, and aim to create positive change in the construction industry. This award recognised the close collaboration between the many teams that need to work together to create a building as technically exceptional as this one.

The judges praised the project’s delivery of ‘unprecedented research facilities in a constrained urban context through close collaboration [and] extensive engagement with the client team and contractor’s supply chain.’ They were also impressed by the work the team have done to share what they have learned during the project, noting that it has enabled the wider industry to ‘learn from the best’. Some of these findings are already being incorporated into other projects at universities including Cambridge, Cardiff and UCL.

These are only the latest accolades for the Beecroft, which has also won an S-Lab Award for Excellence in Laboratory Design, Management and Operation, and was named Project of the Year in the Oxfordshire Property Festival Awards 2019.

New carbon target commits University to halving emissions from their peak

The University has launched an ambitious new target on carbon emissions; it is now committed to reducing them by 50% from their peak by 2030.

The University has made enormous progress in reducing carbon emissions over the last decade. Emissions peaked in 2010 and have fallen ever since; this peak will form the baseline for the new target. But it is likely to miss its previous target of cutting emissions 33% by 2021, relative to 2006 levels.

This is largely because the University estate has grown by around a third since the target was set, including numerous energy-hungry new scientific facilities. The old target was also mainly based on theoretical calculations; the Environmental Sustainability team now has vastly more practical experience and a much better idea of what can be achieved. For instance, they are now focusing their efforts on the largest sources of emissions, such as labs, and have moved to the Passivhaus approach for creating energy-efficient new buildings. They are confident the new target is achievable if the whole University works together.

For more information on the new target and how you can get involved, please see the Sustainability website.

Major land purchase at Churchill

In March the University bought around 10 acres of land at the Churchill Hospital site from the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The Asset Management and Legal Services teams within Estates Services played a vital role in enabling this transaction to go ahead despite an extremely challenging timescale.

The Trust has leased the land and buildings back from the University for between three and six years while it finds new, more modern facilities into which it can move the various units currently based there, including its Haemophilia and Thrombosis Centre and various laboratories and storage areas, as well as staff car parking.

The land is a strategic acquisition for the Medical Sciences Division and will support the long-term development of the biomedical science research hub at the Old Road Campus and around the Churchill.

Making the University's food more sustainable

The Facilities Management, Purchasing and Environmental Sustainability teams have been working closely with catering contractor Compass to make the University’s food more sustainable.

The Compass-operated cafe at the University Club is now accredited by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), after receiving two out of three stars in an April assessment. The other Compass cafes are also in the process of receiving accreditation. 

Compass at Oxford have joined the Olio app, which aims to redistribute food that would otherwise go to waste to the local community. In April alone, Olio kept 228 portions of food from the cafes out of landfill, preventing the emission of 196 kilos of carbon dioxide.

The cafes have also:

  • Supported the local ‘Good Food’ campaign
  • Joined Refill Oxford, committing to provide free tap water to reduce single-use plastic waste
  • Implemented a traffic light system to show how much sugar is in drinks, in association with the Sugar Smart Oxford campaign
  • Introduced recyclable coffee cups in some locations, along with special recycling bins for these cups.

Other departmental cafes have gone still further, removing disposable cups altogether to give customers a choice between china mugs and bringing in or buying their own re-usable cup.

Two electric vans for transporting ambient or hot hospitality food are also being introduced to reduce vehicle emissions, and there are plans to introduce ambitious new measures to reduce plastic waste even further.

New neuroscience building handed over to users

The new purpose-built facilities for the Centre for the Prevention of Stroke and Dementia and the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging were handed over to their new occupants in early June. Both research units are part of the University’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences within the Medical Sciences Division. The new neuroscience research centre is designed to help maintain the University’s world-leading position in the field. Its façade is made up of four main materials – glass, terracotta, bronze and wood – with natural ventilation and sound attenuation provided through a sophisticated design.

New ultra-efficient freezers slash emissions

The Environmental Sustainability team have funded the replacement of the most inefficient ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers in labs all over the University with highly efficient new models.

This saves money and energy, since ULT freezers use huge amounts of power – a single one with an old design can consume nearly as much as four average households. The project, financed by the Carbon Management Fund, is already saving around 35 tonnes of carbon a year, and will pay for itself in less than a decade.

The team are also providing training and instructional materials to tell lab users how to use their freezers more efficiently so they last longer and use less energy; in some cases smart sharing of freezer resources may even mean fewer units are needed. Stickers giving information about freezer best practice have already proved popular.

The second phase of the program is now identifying the next round of priority candidates for replacement – this will be another 10-15 inefficient freezers, with the University helping fund replacement; there will also be some funding available to replace inefficient freezers even if they aren’t on the priority list.

In the longer term, similar initiatives are planned for other energy-intensive lab equipment. To discuss any issues around lab sustainability, contact Stefanie Reiss on stefanie.reiss@admin.ox.ac.uk.

Central Production Kitchen opens at Osney

The new central food-production centre for University catering contractor Compass is anticipated to be fully operational from the end of July.

This is expected to greatly improve the quality and consistency of food Compass can produce, both in departmental cafes and for meetings and event hospitality. The lease on the property, lasting for the remainder of Compass’ contract, has been completed; the Asset Management and Estates Legal Services teams worked on negotiating this on the University’s behalf.

Science Transit Shuttle evolves into public bus with new operator

Thames Travel has taken over operation of the Science Transit Shuttle service from 15 July.

The new contract includes two routes – the ST1, running between Oxford and the Harwell Campus, and the ST2 that links Oxford City Centre with Wytham and the JR Hospital, stopping at Seacourt Park & Ride, Oxford rail station and Old Road Campus on the way. See www.thames-travel.co.uk/science-shuttle for more information.

The new services are open to the public, fully accessible, provide double the passenger capacity and will offer a far wider range of ticketing options, including contactless payments and the Key travel card. University cards can no longer be used, though. Tickets are valid across all Thames Travel and Oxford Bus Company services operating in the same zone.  

Thames Travel is investing in a fleet of full-sized ultra-low emission buses to provide the service, further increasing its environmental benefit. The service is part-subsidised by the University and the Science & Technology Facilities Council. If you have any questions, please email travel@admin.ox.ac.uk.

Security Services help Encaenia run smoothly despite protests

Encaenia, the highlight of the University’s ceremonial year, took place on June 26, with honorary degrees presented to luminaries ranging from astronomer and physicist Professor Andrea Ghez to famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma. As usual the Security Services team worked closely with colleagues all over the University as well as with Thames Valley Police to help ensure the event ran smoothly and safely, despite two protests on the day.

The first was organised by Extinction Rebellion, protesting the University’s failure to divest all its fossil-fuel investments. Security Services worked with them to facilitate their protest and so ensure that the University procession and ceremony were not seriously affected. The second protest was organised by animal rights campaigners Speak; the organisation appears at Encaenia most years, but was present in larger numbers this year. This may be because Speak came to Oxford in April to march for the World Day for Animals in Laboratories – another protest that Security Services helped manage. Ahead of Encaenia, Security Services staff held three meetings with the police to plan how to deal with the threat, with the result that the ceremony and procession could go ahead as normal despite a much larger-than-usual protest.

Teddy Hall lawn revitalised

The lawn in the main quad at St Edmund Hall was restored to its former glory by University Parks gardeners this spring after being devastated by chafer beetle larvae. The team stripped away the old turf and rotovated the ground beneath before re-levelling and laying new turf, all in time to meet an Easter deadline ahead of a planned college event. Chafer beetle larvae are irresistible to birds and other animals, which arrive in large numbers and rip up the turf to get at them.

Flushes replaced in Andrew Wiles BuildingAndrew wiles building

Work by the Direct Labour Organisation (DLO) has prevented significant wastage of water at the Andrew Wiles Building. All toilets in the ROQ building were installed when it was finished in 2013, using push-button flushes.

Earlier in this year building users noticed that water usage had risen sharply; investigation revealed that many of the valves in these flushes had started failing around the same time, meaning that the cisterns were continuously leaking. DLO plumbing apprentice Sarah Fagan replaced the flushes on all 85 toilets and urinals in the building, and early data suggests this has reduced water consumption by around 20m3 a day.

Any other users of buildings with push-button flushes that seem to be using too much water should contact the DLO. Repeatedly replacing push-button flushes every few years will be costly and labour-intensive, so the DLO believe this should be borne in mind for future projects, perhaps influencing designers to use traditional lever-flush systems instead.

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