New research facilities at University of St Andrews after fire

An artist's impression of the Portakabin building.
An artist's impression of the Portakabin building.

New purpose-built modular buildings will restore world-leading research facilities at the University of St Andrews following a devastating fire earlier this year.

In February, a fire ripped through two labs in the Biomedical Sciences (BMS) building on the North Haugh.

Although the building’s compartment design restricted the spread of the blaze, the operation to douse the flames caused extensive water-damage to all areas of the research facility.

Since then, a specialist university team has worked closely with members of staff from BMS and Portakabin to develop temporary laboratories on North Haugh.

These will ensure the important research at BMS can be re-started while the lengthy operation to recover the building continues.

The purpose-built modular building complex will accommodate biology teaching and research laboratories alongside bespoke office spaces. The specialist modular units are built by Portakabin at their factory in York. Installation of the new facilities will begin mid-July with construction and specialist internal fit out works due for completion by mid-October, at a cost of £9m.

From Monday, for a period of five days, the 44 Portakabin modular units, which fit together to create a specialist laboratory complex, will be transported from York to St Andrews and craned into position to create the new building. The modular units will be transported by articulated lorry, and this may cause some temporary disruption to traffic on the North Haugh on delivery.

The lorries will have a standard escort vehicle, with Portakabin trained marshals front and back, to guide each delivery slowly and safely through the North Haugh to the site.

Each delivery will take approximately five to 10 minutes to travel from the Gateway building, into the North Haugh past the School of Medicine, Jack Cole and John Honey Buildings, then reverse up into the site. As a result, traffic will need to be stopped for approximately five to 10 minutes each hour within the North Haugh causing minor disruption throughout the week.

Only one delivery will be on the road in the North Haugh at any one time. There are also plans for overnight parking of lorries on Golf Road and the site entrance road. A full logistics plan is well developed with holding points identified for the lorries between York and St Andrews.

Professor Tom Brown, dean of science at the university, said: “The construction of the temporary lab facilities ensures that the ground-breaking research carried out within BMS continues and lets the world know that we are open for business, delivering results of real global significance.”

Further development of new chemistry research labs within the Purdie Building at the North Haugh will also take place, at a cost of £3m. Existing biology teaching within the Purdie Building will be relocated to the new modular labs.

A full assessment of the damage will take place over the coming months.