The RAL Centre

Main Contractor
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory & Science and Technology Facilities Council
Fairhursts Design Group
£ 300,000
Products / System
Guara Living Roofs
Project Information

What They Said:

  • World-leading space industry research centre
  • Over 40% of construction value accounted for by building services
  • Will test components for most of world’s satellites
  • Laboratories with temperatures as low as -260 degrees centigrade
  • UK’s largest thermal vacuum calibration facility
  • BIM used to programme complex steelwork and service runs


The RAL Space facility at the Harwell Science Campus in Oxfordshire is a world-leading facility that tests satellites prior to being sent to space. It houses the largest and most sophisticated space design, production and research facilities in Europe.

 This highly complex laboratory provides very exacting research and monitoring environments, including thermal vacuum chambers, 15 cleanrooms and low vibration chambers. These recreate conditions in outer space and also at blast-off.

 For Willmott Dixon’s team, the test chamber conditions we had to create included laboratories with temperatures as low as -260 degrees centigrade and special vibration equipment to replicate take-off. The site also includes the UK’s largest thermal vacuum calibration facility and one of the tallest cleanroom facilities built, exceeding 12 metres in height to accommodate the space-age equipment.

 The 7,500 sq m building is 17m high with varying layouts to accommodate the R&D facilities. It’s a key part of the Science & Technology Facility Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory that makes the UK a leader in space research.

 Innovations and solutions

It took our team under a year to build on site, after we were awarded the design-and-build contract in November 2013. Over 40% of the £21.6m build value of the project’s first phase is accounted for by services, with time saved by prefabricating the large M&E plant areas.

Chris Mutlow, director, STFC RAL Space:

“A brilliant facility expertly delivered by Willmott Dixon in just 48 weeks.”

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