Magdalene College New Library Wins Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize 2022

29 Sep 2022

Contaminated Land



Ground Gas

Site Investigation


Created by Niall McLaughlin Architects, the Magdalene College New Library located in Cambridge, was a project designed to replace the previously existing library with a building that would have a 400-year lifespan. The beautifully designed timber-based library and study space are designed with natural ventilation and lighting in mind. Dominated by load-bearing brickwork, the site, which spans 1,525 m2, required input from a multitude of contractors including our Geotechnical team at Ground Engineering Limited for Site Investigation Surveys.

Site Investigation Surveys

Prior to undertaking any excavation or ground preparation works for the Magdalene College New Library redevelopment project, site investigation surveys had to be carried out to ensure the correct control measures are implemented, reducing environmental impact and risk to life to a practicable level.

Our team delivered an overall assessment of the proposed development of the sensitive site. This included:

  • Site investigation compromising a desk study and ground investigation within the Magdalene College Fellows Garden.  The desk study established the history of the site and included environmental searches.  The ground investigation determined the nature and geotechnical properties of the underlying soils in relation to foundation design and construction for the new building.  An assessment of ground and groundwater contamination and the need for ground gas infiltration prevention measures were also within the scope of the investigation.  
  • Additional boreholes were undertaken to provide continuous ‘undisturbed’ samples for the University of Cambridge archaeology department.
  • Further borehole investigations were conducted for the contractor to provide design parameters for the design of a haul road across a slope into the restricted access, flood plain site. 

Conducting ground investigations is essential to ensuring a development project runs smoothly and safely. Using information from site surveys through to geotechnical surveys, accurate planning negates project delays, rising costs, and potentially unforeseen risks.

Determining the classification, strength and durability, as well as surveying for hazardous material contamination of ground before commencing works was essential to the safety and sustainability of the long-life building.

RIBA Award

Featured in the Times’ Ten of the coolest new buildings to gawp at this year, the library, which was opened in July 2022, won the Stirling Prize award by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Nominated alongside 5 other notable builds, the RIBA Stirling prize is the highest accolade in architecture. Awarded to projects that demonstrate climate resilience and adaptation whilst enhancing both the environment and the lives of the building users.

Ground Engineering Services Director Steve Fleming commented on the RIBA win stating;

“Investors and developers are increasingly focussed on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors as green or sustainable investment influences the investment market. It gives me great pride to know that our team is working on sustainably focused projects such as the Magdalene College New Library, where design considerations have been made to create a naturally lit and ventilated environment, reducing energy costs and emissions.”


Addressing ESG and sustainability, notably around Net-Zero commitments in the property development and construction sector, represents an enormous challenge for policymakers, advisory, and commercial organisations alike. As energy prices continue to rise, investments in greener buildings suffer due to materials and design which may be comparatively costly compared to less sustainable development.

The first and most fundamental step is to recognise that ESG is good business and that it should be at the heart of every project, not an afterthought or an add on. The vast majority of global businesses, and many regional businesses, have Net-Zero targets and a range of other commitments.  Under initiatives such as the EU Taxonomy (expected to be reflected in the UK Green Taxonomy) and through others, such as the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TCND), there are a range of drivers for sustainable construction and development.

Who are Ground Engineering Limited

Acquired in May 2022 by Delta-Simons, part of the Lucion Group, Ground Engineering Limited is the successor to Soils Engineering, which was originally Pre-Piling Surveys Ltd, founded in 1936. Their long-standing history highlights the level of experience and reputation that Ground Engineering has in the marketplace. Offering geotechnical and geoenvironmental ground investigation and associated professional services, Ground Engineering is the trusted supplier of choice for the civil engineering, construction, housing, environmental management and financial sectors. 

With a UKAS ISO 17025 accredited geotechnical and construction materials testing laboratory, and a long-standing team of highly skilled and experienced geotechnical engineers, geologists and drilling operators, Ground Engineering expanded its operations and capacity across the UK upon joining the Lucion Group. This strategic acquisition expanded Delta-Simons’ already well-established Geoenvironmental team, headed up by newly appointed Managing Director Simon Clennell-Jones

Simon commented on Ground Engineering’s involvement with the project;

“It’s fantastic to see project developments, like Magdalene College New Library, that take years of planning and construction, recognised for not only aesthetic appeal, but for its mark of sustainability as a long-life building.

The Lucion Group is a team of environmental service and consultancy providers, aimed at protecting people from hazardous environments, and protecting the environment from the impacts of people. Working holistically across the Group, we deliver investigation assessment and design services at every stage of the development life cycle. From site acquisition and early stage design, through to construction, commission and handover supporting our clients with ongoing compliance. 

This most recent award win is testament to the quality of work we deliver across Lucion Group as a trusted partner for many development and design teams.”

As part of the Lucion Group, we are a national provider with a regional presence, with a team of 500 employees, the majority of whom are field-based technical specialists with skillsets in 50+ environmental consultancy services, including hazardous materials, ecology, air and water services, geoenvironmental and sustainability among others.

If you are looking to partner with a holistic geoenvironmental and contaminated land services supplier, get in touch with our team by emailing