Cavendish Graphic

Supporting the University of Cambridge through a major relocation

Students at The University of Cambridge’s Department of Physics have long been known for carrying our pioneering research. Famous names such as Ernest Rutherford, Francis Crick and James Watson worked at the university’s Cavendish Laboratory, with all three being awarded Nobel prizes.

Today’s students continue to push the boundaries of research at the Cavendish Laboratory, known as “the home of discovery”. Always committed to innovation, the University embarked on a £250 million relocation of the laboratory to a new site on the West Cambridge campus.

The new facility will house Physics research groups, laboratories, and lecture theatres, with the building intended to host public events to support the programme of work with schools and the general public.

Working hand-in-hand with the University

We worked with The University of Cambridge to deliver this major relocation. The work consisted of three elements:

Laboratories - £220 million. A 34,000m2 building to house:

  • laboratories
  • clean room
  • teaching facilities
  • workshops
  • meeting rooms
  • 250 offices.

Shared facilities hub - £25 million. A 4,500m2 building comprising:

  • library and multi-department teaching space
  • retail facilities
  • a central production kitchen capable of serving the whole university.

Infrastructure works - £11.35 million. This includes HV upgrade and relocation of mains water and drainage services.

This is the largest single project that the University of Cambridge estates division team is delivering. Our role is to be an extension of the estates team and help them deliver a facility to help students tackle the problems of the 21st century.

We’ve been involved from the start, working with the university on the establishment of the project, setting up the team and agreeing the right governance. We were central to the development of the procurement strategy to the main contractor appointment. This meant working closely with the project quantity surveyor and the university to develop a robust and sensible approach.

We are responsible for the project management of every aspect of the scheme. All stages to date have been successfully delivered and works are currently on programme and within the approved budget. The completion date was May 2022, followed by a three-year soft-landings period.

As a major project, it attracts a lot of attention and scrutiny from a wide range of stakeholders. Because of this, we have built time into the programme for governance and sign-off and made sure the right gateways were in place to avoid surprises and inconsistent messaging.

Adding value through collaboration

We guided the project through the stakeholder engagement, briefing, design, procurement and approval processes to appoint a contractor to deliver the project.

Our surveyor-qualified drone pilots also filmed footage of progress, which the University described as a significant step forward. The footage was used at board level to demonstrate progress much more effectively than still photography.

We helped to develop a project charter, which set the expectations of the project team. The fundamental expectation is for all parties to collaborate. We led by example throughout the project to respect all parties’ views and manage the project with collaboration at the heart of everything we do. 

Through collaboration, we built strong relationships with the client team, end users, contractor, and the consultants. These relationships helped us negotiate several project challenges rather than simply following strict contact protocols. This approach helped us reach good outcomes that benefited the client and contractor, for example we:

  • Negotiated a large contractor claim for Covid delays due to the 2020 lockdown and impact of the following year.
  • Brokered negotiations between the contractor and the university after a substantial contractor claim for inclement weather. This approach reduced the cost and impact of the claim on the programme of work.
  • Managed the strategy for the additional day 2 works. We incorporated these into the contractor’s works to be carried out alongside the main contract works, rather than post- completion as was originally planned.

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