Clinical Trials Unit, Warwick Medical School

Clinical Trials Unit, Warwick Medical School

Provided by MJP Architects


The CTU has been awarded BREEAM Excellent status under the BRE Environmental Assessment Method and achieved an 'A' Energy Performance Rating with a very low emission of 17 kg of CO2 per floor area (m2) per year.




The entrance to the Clinical Trials Unit building. © Peter Durant/ 

Architect and Masterplanner: MJP Architects

Address of project: Warwick Medical School, The University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, United Kingdom

Construction Cost: £4.1m

Year of Completion: 2009

Client: University of Warwick

Quantity Surveyor: Northcroft

Structural Engineer: ARUP

Services Engineer: Couch Perry & Wilkes

Main Contractor: Kier Moss




 The design problem

The new Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) building is an extension to the existing Warwick Medical School. The 1,745sq m rectangular building is two storeys with plant room above. It accommodates a team of around 75 academics, researchers, programmers, statisticians and administrative support staff. Their requirement was for cellular office space for between one and eight persons with additional ancillary provision of meeting rooms and archive space. The function of the CTU is research rather than teaching - it is used to monitor the performance of different drug treatments and physical therapies.


Ground floor

Ground floor plan. © MJP Architects.  



 The site

Warwick Medical School is detached from the main Warwick University campus, but this lack of proximity didn’t deter the school from commissioning a showpiece new building that raises the bar in terms of its energy performance.

It lies south of the main campus on Gibbet Hill, replacing an Estates Department building, although it retains a communication hub, part of the original complex, which MJP has reclad and re-roofed.

The site is adjacent to Gibbet Hill Road - part of a rolling mature parkland setting next to an existing pond.

Entrance elevation

Entrance elevation. © Peter Durant/



The architectural response

1. North – South orientation to mitigate overheating.

2. Flexible cellular office space around central atrium.

3. Green response needed on tight budget.

4. North facing saw tooth roof to atrium.

5. Louvres on east and west facades to cut down on solar gain and glare - external solar shading - one of the most prominent characteristics of the CTU building is the vertical brise-soleils arranged along the East and West elevations. They are designed to shade the building from excess solar gain and thus avoid the need for mechanical air conditioning.

6. Rooftop Photovoltaic cells.

7. Mixed mode ventilation.

Short section

Short section. © MJP Architects.  


Long section

Long section. © MJP Architects.  




The building

West elevation

West Elevation from the South showing how the louvres cut out glare and solar gain. © Peter Durant/  

A landscape of trees

The building is set in a mature landscape of trees. © Peter Durant/

East elevation

East elevation showing bridge link to Medical School. © Peter Durant/


East elevation II

East elevation. © Peter Durant/

Cladding detail

Detail of the façade showing proprietary cladding system. © Peter Durant/

Central atrium

Central Atrium with saw tooth roof. © Peter Durant/


Central atrium II

Central atrium looking towards offices in aisles. 
© Peter Durant/





Design strategies

  • Steel and Cement and concrete: Exposed steel frame with precast concrete infill : exposed thermal mass to mitigate overheating: Constructed from an exposed steel frame, the building incorporates an 18m-long central atrium used as a break-out space from the cellular offices that run along the long sections on either side of the building. The building is bookended with circulation space at the north and south ends and a bridge link attached to one end of the clinical trials unit connects it to the rest of the medical school.
  • Stack ventilation and Cross ventilation: The building is primarily naturally ventilated with openable windows along both east and west elevations at both levels. At high level within the elevations there are manually operated night time purge vents with aluminium louvre screens in front which allow the occupants the possibility of night time purge ventilation of the fabric via the atrium roof lights.
  • Air tightness: Key to achieving this goal was the building’s double-glazed, composite timber curtain walling system by the German company Lang Fenster. This not only achieved very good air-tightness but also created a restrained and elegant facade. It features a timber-laminated frame with an aluminium clamp and pressure plate, opening vents and fixed panels.
  • Photovoltaics: Rooftop Photovoltaic cells - About 60% of the zinc roof is covered by Photovoltaic cells on a steel framework inclined at 15degrees to horizontal. These were funded by a grant from Advantage West Midlands, the local RDA.
  • Green Roofs: Sedum roof - a planted ‘green’ roof is used to dissipate roof drainage and reduce the burden of surface water drainage systems thereby reducing the risk of flooding.


Lessons learned

More time could have been spent in liaison with the Mechanical and Electrical engineers on the thermal modelling of the envelope to fine tune its expected performance. This would have been a useful tool in later discussion with specialist sub-contractors.


Take this further


Related case studies

Cement and concreteNatural ventilation - cross ventilation, Air tightness, Photovoltaics, Green roofs