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CABI, Wallingford

Client: Scott Brownrigg

Architect: Scott Brownrigg

Contractor: Barnwood Construction

Value: £28 million

The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) summarises its mission as ‘improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment’. While it boasts hundreds of staff working from more than 20 locations globally, a significant number of those are based at the head office in Oxfordshire. Since 1987, a team over 140 strong have been operating out of a repurposed school at Mongewell Park outside Wallingford.

To usher CABI into the future, architects Scott Brownrigg designed an aesthetically striking new building. The project began on site in January 2019 with Perega appointed to provide full civil and structural engineering services for the project.

Work began on the first-floor structure, consisting of a hybrid precast/in situ podium. A precast twin wall system was exploited for the concrete walls. Using precast concrete provides a high-quality finish to exposed surfaces as well as the thermal mass required for the scheme. Further, an extensive green roof is supported by a steel roof structure, which sits on steel columns directly bearing onto the podium columns below.

Perega also provided civil engineering expertise in the form of drainage and hard paving design, requiring the detailed development of a strategy, which was challenging due to a high-water table and high infiltration rates.

To financially facilitate the construction of the new office, CABI sold several of the old playing fields around the site to CALA Homes, which will develop the land into 91 new residences, a play area, and wildflower meadow. During the planning phase, there was some concern around the proximity of the site to an Area of Outstanding Beauty. The landscaping being undertaken by CALA and the design of the new headquarters have taken this into consideration and reflect CABI’s mission to protect the environment.

Along with an eye-catching exterior, the building boasts excellent green credentials including low carbon emissions, sustainably sourced materials, an exposed concrete slab to provide thermal mass and absorb heat gains, and other low carbon design strategies to minimise reliance on fossil fuels.

Image credit: Hundven-Clements Photography