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The James Dyson Building, University of Cambridge


Project Brief

The James Dyson Building and the Dyson Centre for Engineering Design at the University of Cambridge officially opened in May 2016.

The technology hub was designed by Nicholas Hare Architects and funded in part by a £8m donation from the James Dyson Foundation, and will give some of the world's brightest young engineering students access to advanced laboratories.

The Department’s priorities were for a low-energy building (targeting 100kWh/m2/annum total) that would showcase the state-of-the-art work of the Department and be sustainable.

The Project

The James Dyson Building is located within the Cambridge Central Conservation Area and is also adjacent to the Grade II listed Royal Cambridge Hotel. Care was taken with both the scale and materiality of the building which was closely scrutinized by the Cambridge Design and Conservation Panel.

The James Dyson Building provides flexible and highly energy-efficient research, seminar and meeting spaces for post-graduate students at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering.

Linked by an atrium to the existing Department buildings, the new facility is located on a prominent and sensitive site within a conservation area and at a major gateway into Cambridge.

Much of the concrete frame of the building is exposed internally to assist in maintaining thermal stability and natural ventilation is encouraged using a series of chimneys running through the building.

Research groups worked with the contractor to incorporate active stress sensing of the concrete frame and low-carbon, magnesium blocks were also used in the build.

A large proportion of the construction cost was met through a generous donation by The Dyson Foundation.

Help from Tarmac - Limelite Heritage Lime Mortar

We supplied Limelite Heritage Hydraulic Lime Mortar in bulk bags & 25kg bags to the new James Dyson Building in Cambridge. The product was a pure hydraulic lime bedding masonry mortar M2.5 but due to its versatility, durability and sustainability met all the requirements of the architects. This lime mortar is ideal for projects such as this one because it is a cement-free product and so recreates an appearance in keeping with the history of the adjacent buildings with a modern aspect


The James Dyson Building for Engineering will support world leading research in areas including advanced materials, smart infrastructure and electric vehicles. Fibre-optic sensors in the foundation, piles, columns and floor feed back live data, about temperature and strain – providing a picture of how the building is behaving. The result is a building that’s more of a living creature than a passive block of material: we can ask the building how it’s feeling, and the building can reply.

The Dyson Centre for Engineering Design will teach students about the design process – and provide space for over 1,200 undergraduate engineers to conduct their research.

"This new space for Britain’s best engineers at the University of Cambridge will catalyse great technological breakthroughs that transform how we live."

Sir James Dyson


  • Regional Finalist: Civic Trust Award
  • Shortlisted: RIBA East Award
  • Shortlisted: RICS Award - Design Through Innovation

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