Mace, the global consultancy and construction company, together with design partners WSP and HOK and technical partners Hoare Lea and GMP, supported the delivery of one of the world’s largest, most innovative diagnostic facilities—the Rosalind Franklin Laboratory—as part of the UK government’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mace-led multidisciplinary team worked collaboratively with NHS Test and Trace and main contractor Balfour Beatty to design and commission the series of test processing “lines.”

The world-class facility, located in Royal Leamington Spa in central England, will be able to process hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 tests a day as it scales up to full capacity. To reduce carbon emissions during its delivery, it has been created within an existing 225,000-sq.-ft. warehouse building.

The lab design brief set out several challenges, including the incorporation of new technology and innovation for the diagnostics process. The team needed to deliver the infrastructure in record-breaking time and provide a safe, sustainable and productive space for those who work at the facility.

Mace introduced off-site construction techniques and worked with WSP and HOK to develop innovative design solutions to support the fast-track delivery of the high-throughput lab, from a 30-month program to less than a year. The team minimized the carbon footprint of the project while maximizing speed and certainty of delivery. The team is handing over the lab lines progressively, with construction progressing adjacent to the live and operational lab environment.

The key to successful delivery was the open and collaborative framework within the multidisciplinary team, enabled by technologies including building information modeling (BIM) and a project delivery management system (PDMS). Early engagement of the supply chain supported the design process to ramp up rapidly in the initial design stages in response to critical program requirements.

Mace was selected by NHS Test and Trace to provide multidisciplinary services including project management, cost management, design and technical assurance.

About the Design

The internal area is centered around a series of identical 246-foot-long lab lines for processing COVID-19 test samples. These are arranged in airlocked, prefabricated, CL2-enhanced containment modules designed around the various stages of the sample preparation, extraction and subsequent testing. They are serviced by linked waste and clean corridors.

The lab lines, which are separated from the rest of the internal area by a full-height fire compartment wall, are paired. At the end of each group of three lines are shared Nexar testing machines.

The remaining internal space is designed to enhance the well-being of the hundreds of staff, and to create attractive workspace compliant with the latest social distancing and PPE guidance. This includes a ‘welfare zone’ that spans the full width of the building and includes a café, food and beverage concessions, a social area and flexible meeting space. This area has been designed to maximize natural light, creating an open and calming space for collaborative work.

Open plan office space and meeting rooms are contained within a separate administrative zone.

To the north of the lab lines, the design incorporates a storage zone that utilizes the existing warehouse’s external loading bays to check in and scan samples before distributing them to the lab lines.

“This world-class facility sets the standard for efficient and collaborative teamwork on a nationally significant infrastructure project,” said Jason Millett, CEO for Consultancy at Mace. “Working collaboratively with our client, Mace, WSP and HOK have delivered this project using the latest design and construction approaches, allowing us to radically drive down the time it took to deliver this facility and its carbon footprint. This is a fantastic example of what our industry can deliver when we work together. All of us at Mace, HOK and WSP are extremely proud of the role we’ve played in the design and delivery of this vital project that will play a key role in our response to COVID-19 and our resilience to future pandemics.”

“We are proud to played a key role in the delivery of this critical piece of national diagnostic laboratory infrastructure,” said Gary Clark, RIBA, leader of Science + Technology for HOK in London. “By repurposing an existing building and employing modular design and construction, we have been able to deliver a state-of-the-art, CL2-enhanced and sustainable facility at significantly shorter timescales than typically needed for a project of this nature.”