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Beatson Institute, Glasgow


The double skin façade for the multi award-winning Beatson Cancer Research Facility at the University of Glasgow, was constructed using Wicona unitised curtain walling.

World Centre of Excellence

Designed by Reiach and Hall and built by Balfour Beatty, the £12m scheme is a world centre of excellence for cancer research. It takes the form of a transparent crystalline cube, which reflects the advanced nature of the research and contrasts with the historic nature of the site and the surrounding walled garden.

Wicona unitised curtain walling has been used to create a complex, bespoke double skin façade, which allowed the building to maximise light transmission whilst reducing solar gain. The tall glazed units allow light into the centre of the building and its laboratories, helping to provide an inspirational working environment and attractive views.

Unique Double Skin Façade

Each double skin unitised panel carries a pane of laminated structurally bonded glass on the outside, with a double glazed unit behind. Insulated opaque glass conceals services, and the third face of the external glass is fritted. The pattern was designed as an art piece by artist Alan Johnston, and provides an unusual solar screen, and reduces the amount of UV light entering the building.

The façade units are up to 3.9m high and 1.6m wide and were prefabricated and glazed off site, reducing installation time and improving quality control.

Maximising Off-site Construction

The Wicona unitised approach allows the façade panels to be fully glazed and sealed in a controlled factory environment, before being delivered to site for faster installation onto pre-prepared fixings, without the need for scaffolding. This method improves quality control and site safety, and can reduce time on site by up to 70 per cent for earlier fitting out, completion and occupation.

Unitised solutions are particularly suited to more complex and bespoke façade designs, such as at the Beatson Institute, and are ideal for constrained city centre sites with restricted access and limited storage space for materials.

The new building accommodates seminar rooms, a lecture theatre, social areas and laboratories with support spaces for 250 staff. It is located within a historic walled garden, surrounded by the mature grounds of the Garscube Estate on the outskirts of Glasgow.

Comments from the Construction Team

Ian Hopkins, Project Manager, Balfour Beatty Construction:

“We would estimate that the unitised approach reduced site erection time by around 50 per cent. This was an important benefit for such a high specification façade and it allowed us to start the complex services installation at an earlier stage, and bring forward the testing and commissioning phase. The quality of the façade panels, which arrived on site around 80 per cent complete, was definitely superior. This is a first class approach to façade construction.”

Nick Richardson, Project Architect, Reiach and Hall:

“This is an internationally important institution. The client wanted a high degree of transparency and natural light into the centre of the building, but the nature of the research demanded a very precise and constant internal temperature.”

Project Awards and Accolades:
RIBA Award
Civic Trust Award
Supreme Award, Glasgow Institute of Architects
Best Healthcare Project Award, Glasgow Institute of Architects