Oxford University's Radcliffe Infirmary Building

Project: Oxford University's Radcliffe Infirmary Building

The Radcliffe Infirmary, named after the 18th century physician and Oxford University graduate John Radcliffe, opened in 1770. It was Oxford’s first hospital. The Infirmary finally closed for medical use in 2007, after being purchased by the University.


The subsequent £200m redevelopment of the site is one of the University’s biggest building projects to have been undertaken within the past 100 years and included the refurbishment of the Grade II  Infirmary building, which now accommodates the University’s Humanities, Philosophy and Theology Departments and Library.


Under the guidance of English Heritage and the expertise of main contractor Laing O’Rourke, the Infirmary has retained many of its original features including the ground floor’s magnificent vaulted ceilings, fireplaces, doorframes, deep “clean bedhead windowsills” in the former wards and “Benefactions” boards situated around the first floor.


The traditional single glazed sash windows presented a particular problem for the buildings energy performance and the main façade also fronts onto one of Oxford’s main thoroughfares, creating unacceptable noise levels for sensitive study areas such as the Library and academic research rooms.


A solution is found with secondary glazing, a reversible adaptation acceptable to English Heritage. Architects Purcell and Laing O’Rourke consulted with the UK’s leading secondary glazing specialist, Selectaglaze and, following a successful trial, a total of 128 windows were insulated.


Most windows were treated with matching sash windows from Selectaglaze’s extensive range. It was important that the window sight lines were respected and each window was manufactured bespoke in a clean white painted finish with white gasketry to ensure that the installation was sympathetic to the original windows. The use of a toughened low emissivity glass helped provide a U-value of a combined window of less than 2.0W/m2K, which is close to modern standards.


Laing O’Rourke’s Site Manager John Kenneally says: “It’s been a challenging project. Having been unoccupied for five years the building was in a pretty poor state of repair and, of course, we had to incorporate modern services in an old shell, but the final result is excellent. The buildings now offer state-of-the-art facilities for research and teaching for the 500 academic and support staff, together with 1,000 graduates and undergraduates”.


Selectaglaze, founded in 1966 and a Royal Warrant holder since 2004, works with a very wide range of clients and has developed particular expertise in the treatment of period buildings.