UCL News


Sainsbury Wellcome Centre wins building award

17 October 2016

The Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour at UCL (SWC) has been named Major Building Project of the Year (over £50m) at the British Construction Industry Awards (BCIA) 2016.


The BCIA recognise and reward excellence in the design, construction and delivery of buildings and civil engineering works. The Centre competed for the title against a shortlist including the Birmingham New Street station, Grand Central redevelopment, Here East in Stratford and Alder Hey Children's Health Park.

The winning buildings were chosen by a panel of judges, who visited each of the shortlisted developments and held interviews with the companies. In awarding the Centre, the judges said:  "This truly is an intelligent building and one which has attracted the leading researchers in this field making UCL now the place to do Neuroscience Research…poetic and pragmatic, it's a very worthy winner."

The Centre on the corner of Howland Street and Charlotte Street was completed in February 2016 and officially opened in May. It brings together world-leading scientists to investigate how brain circuits process information to create the neural representations that guide behaviour. The full complement of scientists is expected to reach 150 along with around 50 dedicated support staff.

Andrew Grainger, Director of UCL Estates, said: "It is fantastic that the Centre has won the recognition of the construction industry and this is a great achievement for the project team and all the partners involved in realising the building. This is the first completed major project in a series of ongoing new builds and significant refurbishments at UCL, and sets the benchmark for future work which we are undertaking. It is a testament to our focus on design quality, innovation and sustainability."

The purpose-designed, seven-storey building was built by Kier Construction and designed by the award-winning firm Ian Ritchie Architects in collaboration with scientific advisors and a team of specialist consultants including Arup. The Gatsby Charitable Foundation and Wellcome funded the development, with strategic project manager Stuart A Johnson Consulting.

The Centre is structured to foster a culture of innovation, collaboration, enquiry and excellence with an unparalleled research environment. This includes:

· state-of-the-art research laboratories with 12 laboratories spread across five floors plus two below ground level

· cutting-edge scientific equipment, technologically-advanced prototyping and fabrication laboratories and custom in-house high-performance computing facilities

· a brasserie and roof garden

Architect Ian Ritchie, said: "It was a great team effort, everyone should feel proud, and we appreciated the collaborative working environment with Gatsby Charitable Foundation, Wellcome, UCL Estates and neuroscientists, Arup, Kier, EC Harris (now part of Arcadis) and the many trade contractors, and the project management team led by Stuart Johnson Consulting."

The building was designed with energy, spatial efficiency and sustainability in mind, and received a BREEAM 'excellent' rating, with operational efficiencies and reduced running costs compared to similar facilities.

SWC Associate Director, Professor Troy Margrie, said: "We are delighted with this award. The design of this building really does strengthen how we do research here. Its spacious, open plan design facilitates interaction not only within individual research groups but across multiple floors linking with colleagues in the Gatsby Unit. The interactive spaces are aesthetically beautiful and comfortable and draws people in which is good for day to day discussions." 


  • The Sainsbury Wellcome Centre building (credit: Grant Smith)