New £22m bioscience facility to play key role in regional biosciences development

A new, £22m state-of-the-art bioscience facility offering research, education and collaboration for the bioscience industry, led and operated by Teesside University, looks set to play a pivotal role in addressing the challenges of the bioscience industry.

The National Horizons Centre

Made possible by financial support from the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) and the European Regional Development Fund, the National Horizons Centre (NHC) is an exciting new initiative designed to provide the full range of skills for the biosciences and foster breakthrough ideas through collaborative research and innovation.  It reflects a strong bond between academia, the public sector and private enterprise in terms of the bioscience industry.

The Brief

The project operated under a single stage design and build procurement route and was administered under a JCT2016 contract with a brief to provide a ‘stunning, iconic facility of national importance’, which would support world-class research, achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating without additional cost, require minimal maintenance and be achieved within budget and on time.

NHC National Horizons Centre


According to Ian Campbell, director of Summers-Inman – the construction and property consultancy responsible for delivering full quantity surveying services from conception to completion – the project presented quite a few challenges.  He says:

“The construction of this building required extensive land remediation.  We recommended de-risking the site through the procurement of an advanced enabling works contract to remove two historic spoil heaps and areas of invasive plant species and significant work was undertaken to optimise the finished levels and to agree segregation of materials to limit tipping charges.

“The site was also constrained – immediately to the west is the East Coast Main Line,  while to the north was a fully-operational day nursery and running north to south through the centre was a public footpath, a main pedestrian route, which had to remain open throughout – so construction had to be carefully phased.”

National Horizons Centre, Darlington, labs NHC

Design Excellence

Mark Adey, Director, The Fairhursts Design Group, commented:  “It was the aim of both the client and the design team to reduce design impact through the purposeful reduction of energy, waste, and water usage as well as introducing biodiversity.

“Externally, the design approach features multiple frontages to influence the aesthetic of the external envelope, while internally, the full height atrium is key to connecting each of the three floors and creating a sense of one team and one facility.  It allows natural light in, but more importantly, it provides visual links between rooms and floors which removes the sense of disconnection so often experienced in science facilities.”

Ian Campbell continues:  “With sustainability a key focus of the client brief, the scheme was required to achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating as part of the funding requirements. This included targeting of credits for installation of low and zero carbon technologies in the form of photovoltaic panels and ensuring that sustainability was embedded into the design from day one, rather than being an afterthought.

“The success of the project is probably best demonstrated by the satisfaction of our client, Teesside University, because it was delivered on time, within budget and to a high quality.” 

Positive feedback

Mr Adey commented:  “We have achieved the brief by delivering a building which punches way above its weight.  The central atrium, the heart of the building, is acoustically designed to host informal student workshops, formal presentations for larger audiences or some quiet time with a coffee.”

Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, said of the project:  “It is a beacon of all we are good at here in the Tees Valley.  The new economy will be built on biologics and digital – key sectors we need to support.”

Chris Robinson, Assistant Director Major Projects at Teesside University, added:  “We now have a world-class resource for training and research here on Teesside.  The centre’s imaginative design includes an exciting blend of teaching, learning and collaboration spaces, together with hi-tech laboratories and a state-of-the-art computing suite.  Open innovation spaces provide businesses with a raft of innovation and collaboration opportunities including tools for project development and using data analytics, modelling and simulation, visualisation and process improvement and control.”

RICS logo ISO logo ISO logo IIP logo BREEAM badge