Project outline

Murphy constructed the new headquarters for the Institute of Physics (IOP). The 1,566 sq m scheme is a combination of office and public space with a basement auditorium and exhibition gallery, which are both open to the public. The ground and basement levels have been designed to hold large-scale events for the IOP.


Key challenges

This inner-city site, at the Knowledge Quarter in Kings Cross, London, has presented some construction challenges and has required a specific and sequenced programme.

The project includes the demolition of the existing internal structure while retaining most of the original façades, as the property sits within the Keystone Crescent conservation area. The property boundary of the new IOP building is on two roads – Caledonian Road and Balfe Street.

Extensive underpinning to the surrounding walls was needed so that the basement level could be lowered by 3.5m to accommodate the auditorium and exhibition areas.

During construction of the five-storey structure, the retained façade will gradually tie back into the reinforced concrete frame. New curtain walling and zinc cladding will sit discretely alongside the retained façade, but will remain in keeping with the uniformity of shopfronts on Caledonian Road.

The time during the temporary works was challenging as Murphy had to carry out extensive work to retain the façade as well as support the neighbouring properties and lower the basement. Murphy had to use a scaffold solution for the Balfe Street façade retention, while the Caledonian Road façade needed large scale steel towers. The Caledonian Road façade is supported from the first floor upwards with a cantilevered steel solution designed to hold the facade vertically and laterally.

Project delivery and innovations

Before the reduced dig, geothermal energy company, GI Energy installed heat exchanger geoKOAX probes – piles that are the first of their kind to be used in the UK. The innovative design means the contact surface area for geothermal heat is twice as large as that for conventional geothermal probes and the drilling depth needs to only be 75m – compared with depths of up to 200m for traditional geothermal piles. This means efficiencies in energy and cost savings on the project.

The reinforced concrete superstructure will have exposed ceilings throughout, fair faced stairs and lifts, and core walls. Raised access flooring will be installed on all levels so that mechanical and electrical elements can penetrate through the floor above and the exposed soffit below. Murphy workers will carry out the high-level workmanship and finishing on the high specification interior.

The new ground-floor frontage to the Caledonian Road elevation will have the same look and feel of the traditional shopfronts in the conservation area. The new third floor will have terraces and will be clad in zinc rain-screen panels. A large glazed atrium to the rear of the property will provide natural daylight to every floor through the core of the building and down into the basement exhibition gallery.

This project for the IOP has many innovative and sustainable features including:

  • Ground source heat pumps that will harness energy from the ground to heat and cool the building
  • Photovoltaic panels that will generate power from the sun
  • A green and blue roof that will encourage a biodiverse habitat, store storm water and regulate drainage of water from the roof
  • Rainwater harvesting, which will be used to flush ‘superloos’ in the office areas

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