Nottingham v-c looks for answers after fire destroys £20 million lab

The University of Nottingham aims to rebuild a lab destroyed by fire, as its vice-chancellor looks for answers on “why the devastation was so total”.

September 15, 2014

Source: SWNS

The £20 million GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry, located on the university’s Jubilee Campus, was still under construction when it caught fire on Friday evening.

A statement from the university said the cause of the blaze was as yet unknown, but stressed that the building, which was to be carbon neutral and as such was being constructed from natural materials, was designed to meet stringent fire regulations.

Fire investigators were due to begin looking into the cause of the fire today.

Paul Greatrix, Nottingham’s registrar, tweeted this morning: “After a very challenging weekend at [the University of Nottingham] following the fire on Jubilee campus, the planning for rebuild starts now.”

Sir David Greenaway, the university’s vice-chancellor, writing today in a blog post about the fire, describes how he returned from a holiday in Devon after being told the news.

When he had toured the building last month, he says he “could begin to understand its impressive environmental credentials, and the opportunities it offered to really push the boundaries of research in Green Chemistry. So, I was excited, and I was proud we were doing this.”

The “vision” behind the lab is “unchanged”, he says.

He adds: “There are lots of questions to be answered: how this fire started; why it spread so quickly; why the devastation was so total.

“Experts will deal with these questions and give us answers in due course. In the meantime we should focus on the present, and the future.”

Sir David continues: “First and foremost, there were no casualties. People are much harder to put back together than buildings, and given the intensity of the inferno, we should be very relieved about that.

“Second, the Notts Fire and Rescue Service, supported by their Derbyshire Fire Rescue colleagues, did an outstanding job in containing the fire and ensuring it did not spread to adjacent buildings; walking around the rest of Jubilee Campus, you are unaware such a major incident took place.

“Third, the building was incomplete and had not yet been fitted out.”

Sir David also praises the response of his staff, saying the “resilience, commitment and professionalism shown is a source of real pride to me”.

Dr Greatrix said in a media statement that the university had received “many offers of help” from other universities across the country.

“We would like to thank the wider higher education community across the UK for its support,” he said.

The university said it was “business as usual”, and that an open day for thousands of prospective students had taken place on Saturday as planned.

The new building was not due to be opened until next year, meaning that both the teaching and research activities of the chemistry department will not be affected by the fire.

chris.parr@tesglobal.com

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