Exclusive: Lend Lease and M&W Group join four other contractors on shortlist for National Graphene Institute job

Lend Lease and M&W Group will battle it out with four other firms to build Manchester university’s high profile £61m research institute into the ‘wonder material’ graphene, Building can reveal.

The University of Manchester has invited six firms to tender for the £30m main construction contract, after 18 had expressed an interest in the job.

As Building revealed last week, Vinci, Bam Construct, Laing O’Rourke and Morgan Sindall have made the shortlist for the Jestico + Whiles-designed scheme.

They have now been joined by Lend Lease and M&W Group.

The complete shortlist of six bidders is:

  • Lend Lease
  • Laing O’Rourke
  • Bam
  • Morgan Sindall
  • Vinci
  • M&W Group

The University of Manchester had intended to invite seven firms to bid, but that has now been cut to six.The appointment of the main contractor is expected in April.

The news comes as the facility, expected to be complete in early 2015,  won planning approval.

Tony Ling, director at Jestico + Whiles, told Building he was “delighted” the scheme had been approved.

The National Graphene Institute will be dedicated to finding commercial uses for graphene, which was discovered by Manchester’s Nobel prize winning scientists Professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov.

The material is 200 times stronger than steel and just one atom thick - making it the strongest, thinnest and most conductive material ever measured.

The 7,600 square metre institute will feature a 1,500 square metre research lab for graphene scientists to collaborate with their colleagues from industry and other UK universities.

Ling said designing the project was “challenging” as the scheme “has more demands on its performance than 99% of buildings”.

The main clean room – where minute samples of graphene will be tested and manipulated – is to be built directly on bedrock four metres below the ground without piling to minimise vibrations.

He said the practice’s design for the exterior expressed “an interesting and technically challenging building, represented in an abstract way” but was not directly inspired by  graphene itself.

The offices and labs are intermixed on all floors to allow individual research to operate coherently in one area.

As Building revealed last year, EC Harris appointed lead consultant on a £35m research hub, with CH2M Hill working as lab specialist and services engineer and Ramboll as civil and structural engineer.