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David Attenborough opens Bristol Life Sciences building

New Life Sciences building is University of Bristol’s biggest construction project to date.

Sir David Attenborough has unveiled a £56.5M Life Sciences building at the University of Bristol, which will provide world class facilities to place the university at the forefront of science research.

The renowned broadcaster and naturalist saw the facilities and address over 200 guests, students and staff. In his speech Sir David said:  “We in Britain have been leaders in understanding the Life Sciences and you will be the leaders of tomorrow.

“Nothing could be more important in the area of scholarship than this. Understanding the natural sciences and the processes that brought us here – these things bring joy and resonance and happiness to our lives.

“This great building will give you and its graduates pleasure for the rest of your lives. It will play an important role in tackling the great problems and difficulties that the world is going to face in your generation.”

The University of Bristol’s largest construction project to date, the Life Sciences building will be the focal point for leading research which is needed to tackle the key challenges of the 21st century such as food security and environmental conservation.

At the ceremony Sir Attenborough had a tour of the pioneering research work happening within the building and even tried some wasp produce as part of an interactive exhibition. It also included the unveiling of a plague to mark the opening of the building and a tree planting in the newly landscaped gardens.

The building work on the 13,500sq m Life Sciences building began in 2011 and was complete in time to receive students at the beginning of this academic year. A total of 2,000 people, including architects from 10 different countries, worked on the buildings development. 

Patrick Finch, Bursar at the University of Bristol, said: “This building and its surrounding public realm has represented the most ambitious project taken on by the University’s Estates Office to-date.

“That it has now been successfully handed over to form a wonderful new home for staff and students is a testimony to a strong ethos of team working between staff in Estates and in the School of Biological Sciences, consultants and contractors. I am immensely proud of the team’s achievement, which should set a standard in the sector for many years to come.”

Sustainability and energy efficiency have been the key to the design of the Life Sciences building and it is targeted to achieve the environmental accreditation BREEAM Excellent. Heat from the laboratories’ ventilation systems will be reclaimed and re-used, the toilets will flush using rainwater collected from the roof, the blinds automatically lower when the sun shines and the lighting installed will avoid pollution of the night sky.

Externally the building features a striking vertical garden which stands over 20m above street level. Some 11 species of plant are living on the wall and it features boxes for birds and bats.

There is also a GroDome, or state-of-the-art greenhouse, which sits on top of the building and controls light, humidity and temperature in order to recreate tropical conditions.

Sir David Attenborough has unveiled a £56.5M Life Sciences building at the University of Bristol, which will provide world class facilities to place the university at the forefront of science research.The Life Sciences building is also capable of teaching around 200 students at once, making it one of the largest teaching labs in the country. Multiple screens ensure students across the laboratory can see the lecturers’ work close-up, moveable walls are present to allow the teaching space to adapt to different class sizes. There is also a five-storey laboratory wing which features acoustic chambers for bat research, an insectarium, labs for studying ant and bee behaviour, spectroscopy and microscope rooms.

Peter Cole, Regional Director for main contractor VINCI Construction UK, said: “The unique facilities within Life Sciences will enhance students’ learning and enable them to be part of a globally-led research and development hub. We are delighted to have been involved with this prestigious project for the University of Bristol and would like to thank all associated with the project for their support in achieving its successful completion.”