Sainsbury Laboratory

Project Overview

Internationally Recognised, RIBA Stirling Prize & Multiple Award-Winning Laboratory Features Architectural Metalwork by PAD Contracts


The Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (SLCU) is a research institute focused on elucidating the regulatory systems underlying plant growth and development. The facility was designed and built to provide a modern, functional building for some of the finest scientists of our generation. The BREEAM excellent rated building is sleek and minimal by design and features a range of architectural metalwork in keeping with the overall aesthetics of the building.


The facility has been internationally recognised, winning the RIBA Stirling Prize 2012, the World’s Best Learning Building at the World Architecture Awards 2011 and the Concrete Society Awards in 2011.


PAD Contracts were chosen by the main contractor Kier to provide multiple architectural metalwork installations both internally and externally. From first floor level the building benefits from minimal frameless glass balustrading providing uninterrupted views, with bespoke stainless-steel handrails to help guide people to ground level. Additional exterior architectural metalwork completed by PAD Contracts included bespoke gates, screens, bespoke bicycle racks and rooftop security metal railings.


Internally PAD Contracts manufactured and installed beautiful brushed stainless-steel square edged handrailing and posts, ‘point fixed’ glass balustrades and bespoke handrailing to staircasing. Two particular architectural metalwork installations required detailed planning and drew upon PAD Contracts years of experience.


The first was the manufacture and installation of numerous structural steel columns stretching from floor to ceiling, from which large structural glazed panels were secured in place by steel point fixings. Creating an impressive glass wall enabling light to flood into the building. The second key installation required logistical and onsite skills to complete. PAD Contracts manufactured a 14m span single flight staircase weighing 12 tonnes which needed transporting to site in two sections, then structurally welded together and the lifted into place in one piece.


Colin Ayres, MD, PAD Contracts comments;


“Naturally we were very pleased when Kier approached us to work upon another prestigious project with them. We have a wealth of experience working on projects of this ilk and decades of knowledge in the field of architectural metalwork. The Sainsbury Laboratory is an especially pleasing project for us to be part of, given the numerous awards it has won”.


Opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II the building includes a laboratory and write up spaces, meeting rooms, offices, back of house areas and specialist-controlled temperature rooms for 120 scientists and associated support staff.


“The project seems simple, and this hides the fact that it was a hugely difficult building to achieve… The building uses fine materials expertly detailed; (its) profound sustainability is impressive, not only in terms of its excellent energy performance but also in terms of its long-term flexibility and adaptability.” RIBA Stirling Prize Judges (ref:


PAD Contracts are architectural metalwork specialists and provide a range of high-quality solutions. The team has experience of working on a vast range of projects, mostly bespoke work on applications such as external and internal staircases, balustrades, gates, handrails, security screens, even bespoke sculptural artwork pieces!

Project Details

Client: The Sainsbury Foundation

Address: Cambridge

Main Contractor: Kier Build

Description: Architectural metalworks

For more information on our architectural metalwork, fabrication and installation services, contact us today.