Industry group delivers testing megalab in response to COVID-19 pandemic

Mace, the global consultancy and construction company, together with design partners WSP and HOK and technical partners Hoare Lea and GMP, supported the delivery of one of the world’s largest and most innovative diagnostic facilities, the Rosalind Franklin Laboratory, as part of the UK Government’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Mace-led multidisciplinary team worked collaboratively with NHS Test and Trace and main contractor Balfour Beatty to design and commission the series of test processing “lines”. 

The world-class facility, located in Royal Leamington Spa, will be able to process hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 tests a day as it scales up to full capacity, and it has been created within an existing 225,000 sq ft warehouse building, in order to reduce carbon emissions during its delivery.

The lab design brief set out a number of challenges, including the incorporation of new technology and innovation for the diagnostics process, to deliver the infrastructure in record breaking time and provide a safe, sustainable and productive space for those who will work at the facility. 

Mace introduced offsite construction techniques and worked with WSP and HOK to develop innovative design solutions to support the fast-track delivery of the high-throughput laboratory, from a 30-month programme to less than a year, minimising the carbon footprint of the project and maximising speed and certainty of delivery. The team are handing over the laboratory lines progressively, with construction progressing adjacent to the live and operational laboratory environment.

The key to successful delivery was the open and collaborative framework within the multidisciplinary team, enabled by technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) and a Project Delivery Management System (PDMS). Early engagement of the supply chain supported the design process to ramp up rapidly in the initial design stages in response to the critical programme requirements.   

Mace was selected by NHS Test and Trace to provide multidisciplinary services including Project Management, Cost Management, Design and Technical Assurance.

Design specifics:

1. The internal area is centred around a series of identical 75-metre laboratory lines for processing COVID-19 test samples:

  • These are arranged in air-locked, pre-fabricated, CL2 enhanced containment modules which have been designed around the various stages of the sample preparation, extraction and subsequent testing.
  • These are serviced by linked waste and clean corridors.

2. The laboratory lines, which are separated from the rest of the internal area by a full-height fire compartment wall, are paired and at the end of each group of three lines are shared Nexar testing machines.

3. The remaining internal space is designed to enhance the wellbeing of many hundreds of staff, and create attractive, workspace compliant with the latest social distancing and PPE guidance:

  • This includes a ‘welfare zone’, spanning the full width of the building, which comprises a café, food and beverage concessions, social area and flexible meeting space.
  • This area has been designed to maximise natural light, creating an open and calming space for collaborative working.

4. Open plan office space and meeting rooms are contained within a separate administrative zone.

5. The design also incorporates a storage zone to the north of the lab lines which utilises the existing warehouse external loading bays where samples are checked in and scanned prior to distribution to the lab lines.

Jason Millett, CEO for Consultancy at Mace, said: 

“This world-class facility sets the standard for efficient and collaborative teamwork on a nationally significant infrastructure project. 

“Working collaboratively with our client, Mace, WSP and HOK have delivered this project using the latest design and construction approaches; allowing us to radically drive down the time it took to deliver this facility and its carbon footprint.

“This is a fantastic example of what our industry can deliver when we work together. All of us at Mace, HOK and WSP are extremely proud of the role we’ve played in the design and delivery of this vital project that will play a key role in our response to COVID-19 and our resilience to future pandemics.”



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