The National Graphene Institute is a futuristic beacon of research and development in Manchester. As a super-thin, conductive, flexible, strong and transparent material, graphene is rightly talked about as one of the world's most exciting scientific discoveries of recent times.

The building offers laboratories, offices and seminar rooms for 200 researchers. Two highly controlled clean rooms occupying 1,500m2 provide dedicated spaces for the most sensitive research, with views t the outside that allow the public to see research as it happens. To meet strict ISO standards, vibration  controls were the key factor in determining the layout and specification of the whole project.

The key objective was to deliver a building that would minimise vibrations to the two research spaces. Julian Dickens, associate director at Jestico + Whiles, was clear about this goal:

'There is no point in building a beautiful car that doesn't work. The primary design requirement was that the clean rooms meet the technical specifications set out by the client.'

The client also wanted the building to have a distinctive visual look, with the equations used in graphene research positioned on the side of the building.

The principal challenge was to create a world class research facility to study the wonder material graphene and help develop patentable applications, to position the UK as the leaders in the field of graphene technology.

In keeping with the futuristic nature of the research centre, the specialists at Lakesmere were challenged to create black perforated stainless steel 'veil' cladding, to visually represent the equations relating to the properties and performance of Graphene.

Project Details

The key challenges were to minimise the vibrations that could affect the highly sensitive research experiments and to  create a futuristic building design that  would match the advanced research  going on inside the centre.

To achieve this, two structurally independent frames would need to fit together underneath one roof; an 'inner  skin' would be created to sit between  the outer veil and building structure.

Eurobond Rainspan was specified as the  best material for the task. This versatile  composite panel option would provide the necessary weather tightness and  fire resistance, while also providing  the perfect structural support for the  rainscreen system being used.

The Rainspan composite panel was specified in Colorcoat Prisma® pre-finished steel in Silver Metallic as  the supporting structure for the outer rainscreen veil. This specification married an aesthetically pleasing finish with  support for the intricate layer of black stainless steel cassettes that would allow  the display of the graphene equations on  the outside of the building.

One of the most challenging aspects of the project was the meticulously planned installation of the stainless steel  rainscreen, using the Rainspan composite  panel as the supporting structure removed this detailed installation from  the critical path and simplified the  construction process to help reduce the costs and complexity of the structure.

By utilising Rainspan in this project the architect was able to combine all the advantages of composite panel  construction with the design flexibility  offered through the use of a variety of  architectural facades.

RIBA Awards

2016 RIBA National Award, the most rigorous and prestigious accolades for new buildings in the UK.


Eurobond composite panels provided the required thermal insulation, supported the load of the rainscreen, and accommodated flush windows and other openings, meeting all the client's visual and technical requirements.


The veil around the Eurobond cladding used hexagonal perforations to show off the mathematical formulas that helped its discoverers earn the Nobel Prize for Physics.


Location Manchester
Architect Jestico + Whiles
Installer Lakesmere
System Rainspan
Material Rainspan
Colours Colorcoat Prisma® Silver Metallic


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