Wates to deliver london’s largest office-to-life sciences conversion

Published: 7-Feb-2024

Wates has been appointed to convert a Grade-II listed London house into a 300,000 sqft, state-of-the-art life sciences hub with the main phase due to complete in Autumn 2024

Oxford Properties Group, a global real estate investor, developer and manager, and Pioneer Group, the UK’s first nationwide company to combine laboratory development and operation with venture building, have appointed Wates as the main build contractor for a major life sciences conversion.

The project will entail converting Victoria House in Bloomsbury Square, central London, into a state-of-the-art life sciences hub, due to complete in Autumn 2024.

Wates plans to convert 220,000 sqft of the building’s 300,000 sqft internal area into Grade A wet lab-enabled life sciences space.

We are proud to play a key role in transforming this Grade-II listed landmark into a state-of-the-art facility at the heart of London, whilst preserving and celebrating the unique heritage features it has to offer

The property’s floor-to-ceiling height, internal infrastructure and scale of the floor plates mean it is well suited for life sciences conversion. It has been designed to house an ecosystem of occupiers ranging from start-ups in designated incubator spaces, to larger pharmaceutical companies as well as firms supporting the life sciences industry.

The property will feature 80,000 sqft of office, amenity, meeting and retail spaces to provide an exceptional employee experience for end users, highlighted by heritage meeting rooms, an eighth-floor club lounge and a roof terrace overlooking central London.

How did this project start?

In November, Oxford and Pioneer Group welcomed one such critical life science industry player, the BioIndustry Association (BIA), as the property’s first life science ecosystem occupier at an opening event attended by 200 people at Victoria House in the newly opened Victoria House Lounge.

Following the completion of an initial phase to create an office area on the ground floor of the building, the BIA, the trade association for UK life sciences, has taken the space which will serve as its new headquarters.

The property’s floor-to-ceiling height, internal infrastructure and scale of the floor plates mean it is well suited for life sciences conversion

Victoria House is a Grade-II listed building, which boasts a number of unique heritage features behind its neo-classical façade, comprising many examples of art deco design details such as a ballroom, ornamental brasswork and the original Italian marble entrance lobby. In the conversion, the main fabric of the building, including its heritage finishes and features will be retained, along with the existing original windows.

Sustainability and wellbeing

The cutting-edge development will have customer wellbeing and sustainability at its core, with the project on track to achieve BREEAM ‘Excellent’ certification.

Wates, in partnership with SES Engineering Services, will work to reduce the operational and embodied carbon footprint of the building through renewable technology and implementing modern methods of construction, such as utilising offsite prefabricated modules for mechanical and electrical (M&E) services. The existing M&E infrastructure will be upgraded, including installing energy-efficient LED lighting and heat recovery throughout the air conditioning system. The finished building will also be primarily heated by air source heat pumps.

The location, amenities and historical character of Victoria House make it one of the most unique and complex refurbishments of its kind

Victoria House is in a prime location within London’s Knowledge Quarter in the immediate vicinity of the King’s Cross life sciences hub. It offers close proximity to several world-renowned universities, hospitals and medical research centres including University College London, GSK and Great Ormond Street Hospital. Its location gives Victoria House a true competitive advantage versus London’s existing life sciences space and immediate development pipeline, which is predominantly in edge-of-town and fringe locations.

"The location, amenities and historical character of Victoria House make it one of the most unique and complex refurbishments of its kind, differentiated by a mix of modern lab space and heritage design," said Robin Everall, Head of Development, Europe, at Oxford Properties. "Our aim is to transform it into a hub that will nurture life sciences ecosystems in close proximity to the city’s Knowledge Quarter."

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"Wates is a leading construction company with a highly skilled team, which makes them ideally suited to undertake the refurbishment of the iconic Victoria House into a state of the art lab space," Everall added. "The group’s strong ESG credentials and experience in sustainable construction methods will help us create a one of a kind, cutting-edge life sciences development in the heart of London.” 

"We are proud to play a key role in transforming this Grade-II listed landmark into a state-of-the-art facility at the heart of London, whilst preserving and celebrating the unique heritage features it has to offer," said Mark Craig, Regional Director for London at Wates. "As an industry leader with over 30 years of experience in the science and research space, we are dedicated to inspiring better ways of creating the places, communities, and businesses of tomorrow, fostering collaboration and advancement within the life sciences sector.”

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