University of London

Birkbeck College, School of Crystallography

"Our users at the college are extremely demanding due to the exacting requirements of the research environment. They praised the excellence of this installation. And that's praise indeed."
Malcolm Pearson, Estates Project Manager, Birkbeck College, University of London

MKP's working relationship with Birkbeck College dates back to 2001. In that time we have worked on numerous refurbishment projects, including a 7-storey infill extension involving the addition of two new floors to the existing building. Due to the nature and age of the building the works required are diverse; from offices to clean-room laboratory environments.

Birkbeck Crystallography performs world-class research in Structural Biology, Bioinformatics and Biophysics.

MKP undertook refurbishment of a basement area into 4 separate electron microscope rooms, a general laboratory, a dark room, two microtone rooms, a cryo-microscope room, and two plant rooms also housing heavier-duty equipment such as vacuum dryers.

One of the biggest challenges was ensuring stable environmental conditions throughout the installation. The 4 microscope rooms, for example, require tightly controlled cooling systems and the cryo-microsope room requires humidity levels down to 10%.

The type of microscopes used at this research establishment cost up to £1.5million each; they are extremely temperature-dependant; de-stabilised by even the minutest fluctuation in ambient conditions. Accordingly, the room itself and the microscopes and their lenses have to be cooled, via massive diffusers.

In the cryo-microsope rooms, samples are refrigerated at the temperature of liquid nitrogen (-196 °C; -321 °F).

The whole scheme, undertaking in two phases, was completed in June 2009.

Working as a team

"I have built up a team of external specialists I can trust implicitly. MKP is an intrinsic part of that team. On this project, everything worked from the very first time it was switched on. There were no teething problems at all. I am more than happy with MKP."
Malcolm Pearson