Nucleus Building 1

King’s Buildings Nucleus

The reaction from students and staff to the new Nucleus building is brilliant. We’ve been overwhelmed on social media, from comments that are coming to us from everybody we speak to about how superb this is and how excited people now are to come up to the Campus at King’s Buildings.”

Professor Iain Gordon | Vice Principal and Head of the College of Science and Engineering

local spend within 40 miles
waste diverted from landfill
timber from sustainable sources

A shared learning, teaching and social hub at the heart of University of Edinburgh's King’s Buildings Campus.

Envisaged as being an environment where students could gather to study in several different ways, the Nucleus building has transformed the student and staff experience at the King’s Buildings Campus. The design approach was key in supporting students to undertake new innovative styles of learning and to aid them in their journey through University.

Delivered by McLaughlin and Harvey through the SCAPE Scotland Construction framework, the £34m project was completed on time and within budget. The building opened in late 2022 for general access and opened fully for teaching in January 2023.

University of Edinburgh published a masterplan which responded to several issues regarding the function and utilisation of the King's Buildings Campus.

There were not enough places for individual or collective study on Campus, so Nucleus, which lies at the heart of the Campus next to the University's main library, was created to offer a flexible learning environment. A range of different-sized lecture theatres were created in different configurations to allow flexibility in the style of teaching whether it’s a large-scale lecture to 400 people on Maths or a collaborative lecture theatre that allows group working.

A large part of the Nucleus’s construction occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst adhering to the construction programme, Mclaughlin and Harvey safeguarded their workforce and the community through comprehensive measures implemented on-site, including daily testing and social distancing measures to limit transmission.

In addition to COVID-19, the project faced other challenges including Brexit, labour and material shortages and price fluctuations.

The building was constructed in a live University Campus with students passing by the site every day. There was limited parking available for employees and subcontractors with the only available spaces on residential streets away from the Campus. All deliveries had to be driven through the Campus and foot traffic halted while the site gates were open. A detailed Traffic Management Plan was implemented with a gate person managing all traffic; deliveries scheduled to avoid busy study times; and a designated off-loading and material storage area.

Delivered on time and within budget, the Nucleus building has created more than 400 student study places in a mix of formal and informal environments to offer students flexibility in how they learn. The four-storey building houses seven lecture theatres, named after species of trees, of varying sizes suit a range of learning requirements and a new 100-person specialist teaching laboratory which is a key addition to the School of Chemistry. The new modern and flexible learning environment will allow generations of students to attend lectures and enjoy comfortable and adaptable surroundings to study independently.

Also designed to be the main catering hub at the Campus, a large café is located on the ground floor as well as a campus shop and the student association bar. In the study spaces upstairs, there are eating stations so that students can prepare their own meals. The University also plan to use the space in creative ways and for events.

Sustainability credentials

The building has an A-rated Energy Performance Certificate. Dynamic thermal modelling was undertaken to help inform the façade development and ensure an optimised solution that addressed thermal comfort, and indoor air quality as well as maximising natural daylight. A mixed mode approach was adopted in the study spaces that enables the areas to be mechanically ventilated in winter, ensuring good indoor air quality and comfort conditions are maintained whilst minimising ventilation heat loss through high-efficiency heat recovery within the air handling plant. It was deemed that a large photovoltaic array would deliver the best payback and carbon emissions reductions generating an estimated annual electrical yield of 64,000 kWh.

As part of the demolition of the previous building, 200 tonnes of demolition material from the previous building was recycled and reused. In addition, a local social enterprise was used to take excess wood from the site and utilise it in various ways, including making furniture they could sell.

McLaughlin and Harvey operate an integrated management system across all sites which includes ISO14001 (Environmental), ISO50001 (Energy) and ISO14064 (Carbon Reduce) focusing on creating a more environmentally friendly and sustainable built environment on our projects.

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SCAPE Scotland Construction



University of Edinburgh



Project value


Local spend within 40 miles


Local labour within 40 miles


Social value generation


Delivered social and local economic value


Rescued from the waste stream

33 tonnes

Social enterprise spend


Apprentices and trainees


Students engaged with


Nucleus Building 1

Students now benefit from a new modern, flexible learning environment

Nucleus Building Lecture Theature

Seven lecture theatres, of varying sizes, suit a range of learning requirements

Nucleus Building Cafe and Students Association

Nucleus was also designed to be the main catering hub at the Campus

Nucleus Building aerial resized for web

The new building has created more than 400 student study places

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