The project to build the new Reuben College now faces further delays well into 2023 after builders discovered asbestos in wall plaster.
Oxford’s newest college, which will be the first new one to open in more than 30 years, was due to be handed over to the university this year but that will now have to wait until at least Easter 2023. Developer Morgan Sindall Construction has led the project which involves refurbishing the Grade II listed building that used to be home to the Science Library on South Parks Road.
The new post-graduate college was announced in 2018 and work began in 2020 off the back of a £71m investment from the ‘Reuben Foundation’. Its principal aim will be ‘to foster interdisciplinary research and its innovative designs for its communal spaces and quads have received acclaimed from various architecture specialists.
Owing to the age of the building thought, the refurbishment was always going to be an ambitious one to undertake without delays and those early worries have now been realised. The builders on sight are said to have discovered ‘significant amounts of asbestos’, predominantly in the wall plaster of the science library. The chemical has been linked to various cancers and asbestosis meaning that its removal is strictly controlled by health authorities when it is discovered on building sites. As a result, and pending further plans to remove the deadly substance without damaging the building, workers are currently banned from entering the site altogether.
James York is the area director for Morgan Sindall and is in charge of the project. He said that, “The lead into this project has been extremely challenging, and the building has thrown things at us that no one could have ever expected. I’m extremely proud of how the team has tenaciously stuck to the task and worked with the university and the college to create a solution to unlock what will now be a fantastic new facility.
The entire team has worked incredibly hard so far as the project involves a careful balance of improving the building whilst retaining features expected in a Grade II listed building. Once complete, we will hand over an outstanding teaching and social space which will attract students from far and wide.”
The plans for the sight also include a brand-new dining hall development with impressive vaulted ceilings and exposed timber, a library on the top floor, and special facilities to hold items from four different university museums in the basement.
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