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BenchSci’s new office: when Toronto and Cambridge meet

The client

The founders of one of the most exciting global innovators in the BioTech space, BenchSci, built, tested, and validated an AI solution to the antibody reproducibility crisis. With the help of Google’s AI fund, Gradient Ventures, they were able to raise over $10m to develop the technology and grow the business.

Fast forward to today and, using AI and proprietary visual machine learning, they have built the world’s first evidence-backed map of disease biology. 

In their own words: “We taught a computer to read and understand experiments like a biologist.”

The brief

We were approached by London-based consulting firm, Dakota, who were acting on behalf of Canada-based client, BenchSci and their interior design practice, Trifle*, to deliver their first ever UK premises in Cambridge. 

From coffee culture to academic accolades
The concept, devised by Trifle* saw the development of an intellectual hub – and something which creatively reflected the values of BenchSci and both Cambridge and Toronto, as a city. As such, Trifle*’s inspiration included references to prestigious libraires, local architecture, and café culture, producing a space that was both welcoming and effective.

Local knowledge
London-based, Commercial Interior Designers Trifle* were commissioned to deliver the conceptual designs. They were hoping to partner with a local company to coordinate the technical aspects of the design and to deliver the fit-out. 

Delivering to a tight budget
COEL’s brief was to work with Trifle* to bring the specifications in-line with the client’s budget, whilst retaining the stunning look and feel of the design. Our design, estimating and commercial teams worked hard alongside Trifle*, to maintain a high-quality finish whilst substantially reducing costs. 

Meeting the needs of a hybrid workforce
BenchSci wanted to create a highly adaptable office space to meet the varying needs of their employees. With limited (12) fixed desking, the rest of the space was to be designed with team collaboration in mind. 

BenchSci Collage 2

Key challenges

The main challenge was that the client was based overseas, and the team had never worked together previously. 

We had to work quickly to understand the brief and interpret Trifle’s vision.

  • Firstly, we worked with Trifle* to respecify various items, bringing the project in line with the client budget, whilst retaining the beautiful look and feel already defined by Trifle*. 
  • Secondly, we were able to mobilise on site in a matter of weeks, before the design had been fully signed off, thanks to the dedication of our onsite team.

The solution

Prioritising adaptability & wellbeing
The space was cleverly planned by Trifle*, to include a single room on the ground floor – ‘The Social Garden’ – which would be a breakout lounge, separate to a larger suite on the second floor.  The second floor comprises:

  1. Open plan desking
  2. A more formal boardroom
  3. Two built-in phone pods
  4. Two smaller meeting spaces
  5. An accessible tea points
  6. A variety of breakout spaces
  7. A zen room to give staff a space to focus on their wellness and recuperation

Taking sustainability seriously
The whole project was designed with longevity in mind, with hardwearing, natural materials wherever possible and flexible furniture solutions. 

  • Flooring:
    – Wood Flooring: FSC-engineered wood flooring, by Havwoods, was chosen, which is long-lasting and recyclable/reusable.
    – Carpet Tiles: Tarkett retrace carpet tiles, Cradle to Cradle Gold, were selected for their low circular carbon footprint. Made from 100% recycled yarn, with an EcoBased backing, these tiles are also 100% recyclable at end of life.
    – Porcelain Tiles: The Archi-tile Terrazzo Porcelain tile slabs are made exclusively from prestigious minerals and clays, extracted, and worked using sustainable methods – no solvents, resins or chemical additives.
  • Wall Finishes:
    – Wall panels: The collective Agency – Recycled PET Acoustic Wall Panels
    – Ceiling panels: Knauf Hera Design Ceiling Panels (wood Wool) – Blue Angel, Indoor Climate Label and Cradle to Cradle Certified® Gold.
Bench_Sci panelling

The outcome

The design and build were completed within seven months, with the process from concept to stage 4 technical designs being adapted and delivered particularly efficiently, to mobilise on site within a matter of weeks.  

What our client thought

“The entire COEL team were extremely helpful and professional throughout the build.

This was a project where none of the team had worked together before; yet we all worked collaboratively from day one. The client, Toronto based, soon trusted his UK delivery team of consultants, designers, and contractors to deliver a significant milestone for them – their first UK office. A great team, and one of the most enjoyable and rewarding projects I have been involved in over the last few years.” John Hodges, Dakota.

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