February building project update


The project to redevelop the Radcliffe Science Library building and the old Inorganic Chemistry Teaching Laboratory to the east continues to progress on schedule, with some key milestones reached this month.

Key Dates:
  • RIBA Stage 4 Technical Design, Feb – May 2020
  • First Stage Tender,  Oct 2019 – Mar 2020
  • Vacant Possession, 14 Apr 2020
  • Second Stage Tender,  May – August 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 Progress

The project remains on schedule with works expected to begin on site in March and April, and to be completed in September 2021. The appointment of the Main Contractor at the end of this month will bring an opportunity to review and test the construction phase of the programme with the benefit of their experience and technical view.

On site, further investigations have been undertaken in the basement area, investigating the make-up of the floor structure and carrying out further tests for asbestos.

Parks Road Trees

Regrettably, it is necessary to remove three plane trees along Parks Road. Specialist advice from both University and external arboricultural experts concludes these will not survive the essential waterproofing and maintenance works needed to secure the basement levels. These trees were planted after the original construction of the RSL basement, in 1975/6. Although the trees are still relatively young, the works will necessarily encroach on their root protection areas (the minimum area around a tree deemed necessary for its viability), and significantly compromise the long-term health and stability of the trees. We have therefore been advised to remove them entirely. New trees will be planted once the works are complete to provide a different set of ecological niches within the avenue and enhance the biodiversity of the area.

The decision to remove these trees has not been taken lightly. The project team has spent the last six months working with arboricultural experts trying to seek alternative solutions to the removal of the trees. Unfortunately, no viable alternative has been found that can achieve the goal of long-term waterproofing security for the basement storage areas.

The City Council has given consent for the removal of the trees, and this will take place on Sunday 23 February when there will be a partial road closure and diversion for pedestrians and cyclists on the path along Parks Road.

Planning Consent

With Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent for the basement maintenance works already granted, further applications for the main phase of works will be submitted on 23rd March. It is expected that these applications will be determined around the middle of May.

Decant and Temporary Library Services

Following the closure of the RSL building to readers, temporary science library provision has been delivered for the last two months from the new temporary location in the Vere Harmsworth Library, hosted by the Rothermere American Institute (RAI). The library has been busy, though combined usage has been less than in previous years following the permanent transfer of geography collections to the Social Sciences Library. A joint Bodleian-RAI review of the shared library operations has been carried out and services and facilities will continue to be monitored throughout the decant period. Planning is now focusing on the forthcoming relocation of RSL staff to the Weston Library and Osney Mead.

We are on schedule for clearing the RSL building and giving vacant possession to the main contractor in mid-April.

Inorganic Chemistry Teaching Laboratory

The project team continues to work closely with the MPLS Division and the Sub-Department of Inorganic Chemistry on the programme for decanting the Abbot’s Kitchen and the old Inorganic Chemistry Teaching Laboratory which will become part of Parks College. Under the oversight of the Safety Office, proposals will be drawn up to ensure that Parks College and Inorganic Chemistry can operate safely within what is in effect a single building. Fire safety arrangements are being considered and technical workshops will be held over the coming weeks to review other safety and operational issues.

Project update prepared by: Toby Kirtley, Project Director