Willmott Dixon has handed over The Pears Building to the Royal Free Charity, UCL and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. It will become the new home of the UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation (IIT) and one of the largest patient-focused immunology centres in Europe.
Scientists will now move into the ultra-modern research facility which will allow them to work more closely with clinicians to develop treatments and cures for some of the most devastating diseases of the immune system.
Construction work continued throughout the pandemic after Willmott Dixon embedded the Construction Leadership Council's Site Operating Procedures into their day-to-day processes to ensure work continued safely with social distances measures in place. The £60m building will now be home for up to 200 researchers looking for cures and new treatments for global health problems including type 1 diabetes, cancer and organ rejection after transplantation.
With world class laboratory research facilities, offices for the Royal Free Charity, a community café and a 71-space car park for patients and visitors, the building is designed to maximise the opportunities for interaction, not only between users of the building but also between researchers and their clinical colleagues in the neighbouring Royal Free Hospital, and with the surrounding community.
In line with Willmott Dixon’s Now or Never zero carbon ambitions, the development is designed to adapt to future climate change. Overheating will be managed passively through exposed concrete, solar shading and natural ventilation. Installed on the windows on the building is brise soleil, a type of solar shading system that uses a series of blades to control the amount of sunlight and solar heat that enters a building. Renewable energy will be provided by air source heat pumps, high efficiency boilers and 102 photovoltaic cells (solar panels) on the roof which will generate electricity and be fed into the running of the building.
To improve biodiversity, a brown roof has been installed to provide future habitats for local wildlife and insect populations, along with a dozen bug hotels and bird boxes which have been placed in surrounding trees.
In constructing the Pears Building, Willmott Dixon successfully diverted 100% of construction from landfill by partnering with Powerday Recycling. All timber used on site and for construction materials was from an independently verified sustainable source.
Chris Tredget, Managing Director at Willmott Dixon said:
“We are incredibly proud to be handing over the Pears Building as it becomes the new home of the UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation. The building will provide a world-class facility which will be home to groundbreaking research, helping to find cures and treatments for life-threatening diseases.
"We are proud of the team’s innovation to embed safe working practices to allow construction at this vital project to continue during the pandemic. We take immense pride in knowing the facility will be used for world class research, benefitting both the local community as well as internationally.”
Professor Hans Stauss, director at UCL’s Institute of Immunity and Transplantation said:
“In the Pears Building we have a world class laboratory research facility and a beautiful space designed to facilitate a unique partnership between scientist and clinician. This will enable us to convert discoveries made in the laboratory into cures and treatments more quickly.
"Our COVID-19 work during the pandemic has reinforced the importance of understanding and modulating the immune system. In the Pears Building we will be able to expand the institute and so create a fabulous opportunity to release the potential of immunity-based treatments in cancer, diabetes, HIV, hepatitis and COVID-19, as well as developing new therapies to stop the rejection of transplants.”
Jon Spiers, chief executive of the charity, said:
“This stunning new building marks a major leap forward for research, treatment and care in north London. Under one roof, we’ll have world-leading researchers, accommodation for patients, parking for visitors, a café for the community and a new home for the Royal Free Charity.
"None of this would have been possible without the incredible generosity of a number of visionary philanthropists, including the Pears Foundation, who have supported the project from the outset.”
Caroline Clarke, Royal Free London group chief executive, highlighted the benefits to patients of the IIT’s new home.
“Our expansion of the institute will give many more of our patients the opportunity to take part in ground-breaking research.
"As well as providing more space for scientists to develop better treatments for cancer, diabetes, HIV and tuberculosis, and to support transplantation, the new centre will play its part in crucial research into COVID-19, helping the international effort to tackle this devastating virus. This important work will contribute not only to the health and wellbeing of our local community but be a world-leading centre for understanding the human immune system.”