Medical Research Council Unit, The Gambia at LSHTM

Having won and undertaken a number of projects for the Medical Research Council (MRC) at its various research sites in The Gambia, we were delighted to win the competitive tender for providing MRC with a multidisciplinary design and project management services for their new build Molecular Research Laboratory at Fajara.
MRC is a publicly funded organisation supporting approximately 5,700 research scientists dedicated to improving public health. MRC is active in The Gambia as the UK’s single largest investor in medical research in a developing country.
The growing demands placed on the Unit in Fajara had highlighted the need to review, analyse and update the facilities available and make provision for the extended scientific needs of the organisation. The Unit’s research focuses on infectious diseases of immediate concern to The Gambia and the continent of Africa, with the aim of reducing the burden of illness and death in the country and the developing world as a whole.
The extent of the scientific research portfolio undertaken at the Unit spans immunology, microbiology, virology and molecular biology. In addition to these, the Unit extends its research capabilities with training, clinical studies, large epidemiological studies and intervention trials.
MRC’s new laboratory area requirement was approximately 860m2 with a further 370m2 of office and support space. The work in the molecular diagnostic follows stringent procedures and sequences to ensure reliability of the diagnostic and data produced. It was therefore a critical requirement that the design enabled this one-directional flow and as far as reasonably practical prevent any activities against this work process direction.

With temperatures ranging from 16°C to 43°C and humidity rising to 95% and 1.3 meters of rain in most of the country there are significant challenges in order to adhere to critical laboratory requirements relating to stable temperature, pressure and humidity. Furthermore the facility needed to comply to sustainability measures relating to energy and the environment and, as importantly, a design solution that recognise minimal local engineering skills and suitable building materials and equipment in The Gambia.
Austin undertook a concept study that formed the basis of the business case to request funding for the construction of the laboratory. An optioneering study was carried out concluding with a design approach that located the lab areas on the ground floor and the office areas at first floor level. This has the benefit of closer collaboration between scientists on the first floor, mitigating solar gain with perimeter circulation whilst maintaining sensitive lab equipment and materials on the ground floor.
A buildability review was carried out based on our previous experience with buildings in The Gambia for the MRC.
The building has been designed for future use around a design philosophy of a centralised lab zone and perimeter circulation allowing the building to be increased in length with minimal disruption should an increase in floor space be required in the future.
The lab planning module and consequential structural grid will allow the lab zone to be reconfigured to achieve different layouts with minimal alteration to the building structure in the future.
By responding directly to the local climatic conditions, this building offers excellent potential for being considered a ‘Distinctly Gambian’ building.

  • architecture
  • mechanical
  • electrical
  • structural
  • public health
  • construction
  • management