March building project update


A lot has happened in the world since the last project update. With severe restrictions on businesses and individuals now in place it is clear that there is going to be a significant effect on the University’s capital projects, including the Parks College-Radcliffe Science Library (RSL) Redevelopment Project. This will become clearer over the coming days and weeks and the next update will give a better view of the likely impact. Meanwhile, in line with the University Silver Team’s instructions, the project continues to be taken forward as a high priority and some key milestones have recently been achieved.

Key Dates: 
  • First Stage Tender, Oct 2019 – Mar 2020 
  • RIBA Stage 4 Technical Design, Feb – May 2020 
  • Vacant Possession, 14 Apr 2020 
  • Second Stage Tender, Jun – Sep 2020 
  • Target Contract Execution, Sep 2020
  • RIBA Stage 5 Maintenance Works, Apr 2020 – Mar 2021 
  • RIBA Stage 5 Main Works, Sep 2020 – Sep 2021 
  • Practical Completion, 29 Sep 2021 
  • RIBA Stage 6 Handover & Close out, Sep – Nov 2021
Project Progress 

Following a first-stage tender exercise, Morgan Sindall have been appointed as the Main Contractor. One of Estates Services’ Framework Contractors, they are entering into a Pre-Construction Services Agreement with the University, under which they will contribute to the remaining design work and start to plan for the start of construction works. They will also be engaged under an Enabling Works Contract to get the basement strip-out and waterproofing works underway, while they run a second-stage tender process to appoint their teams of sub-contractors for the Main Works. The intention is to enter into the main contract with Morgan Sindall in September 2020, but until then the enabling works (including decontamination and further asbestos removal) will progress under the Enabling Works Contract.

The decanting of the RSL site had been all but completed when the current shutdown was announced. Although some small final clearance moves were suspended, all staff have now been relocated from the building and the RSL site will still be available for the Main Contractor to take vacant possession. This is currently scheduled for 14 April but specific handover arrangements with the contractor are currently being worked out. The move of Pitt Rivers Museum collections from the object store in Inorganic Chemistry was also suspended but will resume as soon as restrictions are lifted. The project continues to work closely with Inorganic Chemistry as it plans to find a new location for the CDTs that had been based in the historic Teaching Laboratory so that this key space can become Parks College’s dining hall.

On 23 February three London Plane trees on Parks Road were removed in readiness for the waterproofing works to the basement. Although it was sad to see these trees go, the operation was well managed by the specialist contractor and proceeded without incident. Some sample timber was given to the Ruskin School of Art and we wait with interest to see how their staff and students will be able to incorporate this into their work.

On 23 March, on schedule, the project was able to submit its formal applications for Listed Building Consent and Planning Permission. A follow-up meeting has been held with City Council officials and agreement reached on how specific matters will be dealt with through the determination process. The Council itself seems to have robust arrangements in place to continue processing applications during the current crisis and, at this stage at least, we do not expect any delays to approval.


The project is now halfway through RIBA Stage 4 (Technical Design). A series of workshops have been completed, in which the various stakeholder groups have reviewed the current design with the help of detailed room elevation drawings to supplement existing room datasheets. This is a key stage in developing the detailed specifications that will form the basis of the second stage of the tender process.

In the basement area, the presence of asbestos within the floor structure has been confirmed through further testing. The project team are working with Morgan Sindall to identify the best approach for dealing with this. It is likely to involve the removal and replacement of the existing cement screed floor build-up. Once a methodology has been developed, the costs of removing this asbestos will be better understood and funding can be addressed.


It is likely that there will be some impact on the project from the current Covid-19 emergency. For the moment, the project remains on schedule. If current government guidance and directions from the University’s SMT do not change, works will begin on site next month, with the target completion date remaining as September 2021. However, Morgan Sindall are also carrying out a review of the project, including the potential impact of the Covid-19 emergency on the programme.


Update prepared by Toby Kirtley, Project Director