January building project update


The project to redevelop the Radcliffe Science Library and parts of the west wing of the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory is making good progress. As well as delivering Parks College – the University’s 39th College – the project will see the creation of a Collections Teaching & Research Centre for Oxford’s museums and the extensive refurbishment of the Radcliffe Science Library itself.

Key Dates

The construction project follows the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) stages of work, which outlines all stages in the planning, design and building process, from conception to completion on site.

  • RIBA Stage 3 Developed Design, Sep 2019 – Jan 2020
  • RIBA Stage 4 Technical Design, Jan 2020 – May 2020
  • Vacant Possession, 14 April 2020
  • RIBA Stage 5 Maintenance Works, Mar – Dec 2020
  • RIBA Stage 5 Main Works, Sep 2020 – Sep 2021
  • Practical Completion, 27 Sep 2021
  • RIBA Stage 6 Handover and Close-Out, October 2021
Project Programme and Progress

Following the completion of the Stage 3 Design Development Workshops held in September and October, the design team spent November coordinating the results between the various consultant disciplines. The final Stage 3 Report, which includes a detailed Cost Plan, will be considered for approval at the 28 January Project Board meeting.

The project is currently seeking tenders from the University’s three framework building contractors under a Two-Stage Design & Build contract. One of these contractors will be appointed under a Pre-contract Services Agreement (PCSA) to further develop the design with the project team before the Main Contract is let. The maintenance ‘Early Works’ to the basement will be tendered separately.

RIBA Stage 4 (Technical Design) will begin in late January and last for 14 weeks. During Technical Design – the final design stage before works begin – detailed technical drawings and specifications will be produced to allow the many subcontractor packages to be tendered with the main contractor’s suppliers.
The maintenance works will begin in March with the removal of asbestos from within the basement areas. In April, a contractor’s compound will be established in the RSL car park and the external works will commence, including the removal of the courtyard and lawn and the replacement of the external waterproofing system. This work will be completed, and external finishes reinstated, by the end of year.

The main contract for the project will be let in July this year and the main phase of works will start on site in September and last a year, finishing in September 2021.

Planning Consent

On 5 November Oxford City Council granted the University Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent for the basement maintenance works, a key milestone for the project. For the main refurbishment works, the final pre-meeting with the Council has been held before the submission of the consent application, in early February. The proposed alterations are considered to satisfactorily meet the requirement of providing public benefit while causing ‘less than significant harm’ to the historic fabric of the building.

In late March 2020, the full planning application for the main project will be submitted to the Council, with a decision expected in mid-June.

Decant and temporary library services

The RSL temporarily closed as a library at the end of December, with all remaining books and services now provided at the Vere Harmsworth Library (hosted by the Rothermere American Institute) while refurbishment works take place (until Autumn 2021). Back-of-house staff will remain in the RSL building until March when they will be transferred to temporary accommodation elsewhere so that vacant possession can be given to the Main Contractor in mid-April.

The Pitt Rivers Museum has begun work preparing and relocating its collections currently stored on the ground floor of the Inorganic Chemistry Building. Collections will be moved first to the museum itself and then on to off-site storage.

Inorganic Chemistry Teaching Laboratory

Members of the project team are working closely with the MPLS Division and the Department of Inorganic Chemistry on the programme for decanting the current Chemistry operations in the parts of the ICL building that will be transferred to Parks College. This programme involves a series of enabling projects and moves before the college areas can be released. Discussions are taking place on the decontamination that will be carried out after Chemistry have vacated these spaces, as well as on joint arrangements for safety during the ongoing co-location of the college and remaining chemistry laboratories.


A Client Progress Group meets every Friday morning to monitor and review progress with key members of the appointed professional team. Every second week, the group includes representatives from GLAM museums and libraries and from IT Services. A Project Board meets on a monthly basis, supporting the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) in conducting the formal business of receiving project reports and reviewing and approving decisions. GLAM’s museum directors and project representatives also meet on a monthly basis to discuss the developing design and operation of the Collections Teaching & Research Centre (CTRC), as well as the project programme, costs and funding.

Project update prepared by: Toby Kirtley, Project Director, January 2020