Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University

Overview and History (Vision)


The Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (SLCU) is a new research centre designed with exquisite architecture both inside and out. The exterior façade is striking with its array of stone pillars, cantilevered overhangs, and structured concrete frame while the interior houses contemporary design and natural building materials.  The new plant science laboratory will provide a state of the art research facility within the University’s Botanic Garden, and will accommodate 120 scientists whose focus will be plant growth and development. At the heart of the building is the University Herbarium which contains over one million pressed and dried plant specimens from all over the world. “The aim of the Laboratory is to elucidate the regulatory systems underlying plant growth and development.”

new1The new research institute is funded by Lord Davis Sainsbury’s Gatsby Foundation. Throughout the years, Lord Sainsbury gained an appreciation for the power of science to improve the human condition, particularly in terms of crop production and the benefits of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The SLCU is the Foundation’s newest and largest ever programme commitment in the area of plant science.



Throughout the project, Conviron worked closely with both the client and the contractor in delivering 37 walk-in rooms including our MTPC and BDW models. Common among the units are their flexibility where, for example, multi-tier units were designed to operate with different light levels for the different lamp tiers allowing for multiple experiments to be performed simultaneously within each chamber. The BDW units were designed to accommodate carts for multi-tier configurations while lighting systems were employed using far-red fluorescent lights in place of incandescent. No incandescent lighting was used in any of the chambers.


With a project of this nature, size and notoriety, project management and scheduling were imperative. While the building construction could only accommodate receipt of products according to a strict project schedule, all three stakeholders agreed that manufacturing the rooms ahead of schedule, storing the units locally at Conviron and then shipping the units in pre-scheduled, consecutive shipments would offer the best solution. On site, this turned out to be successful as installation, test and commissioning of all of the walk-in rooms progressed in a timely and efficient manner. 





The Result

The new Sainsbury Laboratory offers unprecedented opportunities to understanding plant development, allowing plant scientists to advance their understanding and achieve results. Through its highly collaborative, multi-functional and interdisciplinary research environment, the facility is engaging top-level scientists from around the world and drawing them to this state-of-the-art plant science facility. While only in its embryonic stages of operation, the facility will become paramount to the long term security of a sustainable supply of food and other plant products providing a positive global impact.