PEARL (the Person Environment Activity Research Laboratory) – UCL’s first zero-carbon in-use building – will be a new and unique purpose-built laboratory facility for the creation of full-size environments to test how people use infrastructure and cities.

PEARL’s objective is to create a world where everyone can experience an improved quality of life through better design of the environment, using an evidence-based understanding of how people interact with it. UCL’s hugely expansive work at PEARL will range from collaborative research with London Underground to make tube design more accessible to the analysis and design of the built environment for people with dementia.

‘A building that will be able to house the world’   Nick Tyler, Chadwick Professor of Engineering and Director of UCL Centre for Transport Studies
  • UCL PEARL-concept sketch_Penoyre & Prasad

Our design creates a versatile and robust facility with large, clear structural spans for a wide variety of research experiments to take place within. It includes:

  • platforms with height adjustable modules, configurable in any number of set ups and combinations, supported by scientific and theatrical lighting and retractable seating
  • ‘The Groove’; a free-standing two storey structure housing the public entrance (‘The Rise’), community facing facilities, super-flexible academic workspace (‘The Riff’), workshop and maker space
  • an amenity landscaped courtyard space
  • a forecourt for larger experiment equipment including decommissioned train and tube carriages and a decommissioned aircraft fuselage linked to the building
“As an increasing number of organisations set ambitious targets for carbon reduction, we’re excited that PEARL will be UCL’s first net-zero carbon building – helping to set the bar for future developments. This is thanks to a combination of highly efficient building fabric and services, as well as taking advantage of the extensive roof space for solar PV panels.” Ben Stubbs, Senior Sustainability Manager
  • UCL PEARL-lab interior_Penoyre & Prasad

A careful balance of internal materials includes a primarily black lab space interior, so as not to visually detract from experiments. The cross-laminated structure of ‘The Groove’ will provide a largely self-finishing interior, bringing warmth and texture and a welcome contrast to the necessary ‘blackness’ of the Lab. CLT also has benefits in terms of speed of construction and minimising waste through off-site manufacture.

Externally, architectural scalloped and perforated weathered steel panels to the west elevation gradually fan out across the glazed frontage of the Groove, providing solar shading and acting as flags signifying the entrance.

Project Leader

  • UCL
Size m2
Completion Date
Structural Engineer
  • Atkins
M&E Engineer
  • Stantec
Landscape Architect
  • Atkins