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BBSRC National Virology Centre: The Plowright Building

The BBSRC National Virology Centre: The Plowright Building

Phase one of the Pirbright campus development included the completion of the BBSRC National Virology Centre: The Plowright Building, a state-of-the-art, high containment laboratory.  Construction was completed in early 2014, and after commissioning, validation, licensing and occupation activities were successfully completed, scientific activity in the building began in early 2015.

The Plowright Building will be used by the Institute’s two scientific programmes for the purposes of in vitro research into virus diseases of livestock, including poultry.   It is 14,000m2 in size and can accommodate 150 scientists, including support staff.

Did you know?

  • The Plowright Building design is a complete departure from the standard box-in-a-box high-containment laboratory and will give most of the 150 scientists working in there a view to the outside world.
  • The building stands at 26 metres, which is the equivalent to six double decker buses standing one on top of the other.
  • Construction company Shepherd, poured 5,100 tonnes of concrete to build the facility, more than the weight of six Eurostar trains.
  • The volume of the basement is 2,500 cubic metres – that’s the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
  • On average the HEPA filter air handling unit processes 7 cubic metres of air per second, all 12 air handling units combined would fill 132 hot air balloons per hour.
  • Siberian larch timber used to clad the building covers an area of eight tennis courts and is designed to age gracefully and blend in with the environment.


The building and the development project have been finalists and won numerous awards:

  • Highly Commended: Guildford Borough Council Design Awards, November 2015
  • Winner: Construction News, Client of the Year Award 2015
  • Winner: Judges’ Special Award at the prestigious British Construction Industry (BCI) Awards 2014
  • Winner: AECOM 360 Ingenuity ‘Thinking New’ Award, January 2014

Find out more about our multi-award winning laboratory building in BBSRC’s article on Medium, High containment: inside the world of virus research.

Fighting viruses: Amazing 21st century lab

High containment: inside the £145M virus lab


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