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Plot & Building

ORB Group > Plot & Building

Business & Technology Come Together

The dynamic and flexible design for the centre that HOK will develop will create the ideal work environment for ORB Incubator staff and Incubatees. HOK will be the lead architect for the ORB Incubator located at the heart of Harlow Enterprise zone, north London. With more than 800 scientists, staff members and clients the facility will be a global hub for technology businesses.


The facility will be based on 2.8 Hectare plot and its focus on translational science will move research quickly from the lab to the marketplace. The campus will be one of the world’s most environmentally responsive research facilities.

The design promotes communication by organising the research and development facility as a small, compact village integrated into the landscape. At the heart of the village, a pedestrian street connects all of the buildings and offers spectacular views of the attractive area of the Essex and Hertfordshire countryside on the River Stort.

quality space at strategically significant site in the home of innovation with its proximity to London Stansted Airport making it a premier business location.

The flexible laboratory and office spaces will be divided into four wings on three floors. A modular design allows each laboratory neighbourhood to be easily subdivided. Floor-to-ceiling glass between laboratory and documentation areas maximises visibility between teams and provides ample natural light. A mix of formal and informal workspaces encourages collaboration. At the heart of the plot space is a central conference centre with an auditorium.

A corner commons building provides additional conference facilities, a small faculty club café, restaurant, gym and other amenities. A patient trial clinic and incubator labs are located nearby for easy patient access.

The town has a strong business base and is already a sub-regional employment centre. Historically the town has been home to businesses such as GlaxoSmithKline, Pitney Bowes and Nortel and today provides around 25,000 jobs for the local economy. The presence of these employers ensures that the area has a strong skills base particularly in life sciences and manufacturing.

Harlow sits at the heart of the London Stansted Cambridge Corridor. This provides a significant catchment of 3.3million people within an approximate one hour journey of Harlow. This population is set to grow by 20% by 2032. The area has a strong economy and skills base with 41% of an expanding working age population qualified to degree level. The business base is also growing with a 2.2% increase between 2008 and 2010, despite a global recession.

This new facility will be one of the world’s most advanced collection of laboratories, equipment and instrumentation across the entire spectrum of science.

HOK designed of the buildings make up ORB Incubator to become a national model for combining technology and the sciences. ORB Incubator Building provides essential research and instructional facilities focused on advancing nanotechnology related subjects. The building includes state-of-the-art labs and office space. The designed of the building will encourage cross-disciplinary innovation by serving both the business and technology programs interdependently. The design provides dedicated laboratory spaces for each program while creating a shared central atrium.

HOK’s design creates easily expandable, adaptable and versatile labs. To encourage creativity, offices have 360 degrees of writable wall space.

Large expanses of glass provide light and views while displaying the activities within to the public. Ample daylighting paired with generous circulation and gathering spaces create social spaces for the exchange of ideas across the clients and staff. The high-performance glazing system and efficient HVAC system, including a separate air handling system in the office wing, helps to save first costs and operating costs.

The project team will have less than 16 months to design, construct and furnish 75,520 square feet of complex space. The campus features 20,390 square feet of laboratory space, 32,474 square feet of office area/meeting rooms space, 6,042 sure feet auditorium, 2,266 square feet of training centre space,3,776 square feet of warehouse, 2,266 square feet of restaurant/coffee and sports facility space, 755 square feet of nursery space, 4,531 square feet of common area space and 3,021 square feet for guests residence spread across floors and three buildings. Exceptionally flexible building shells and universal floor plates accommodate virtually every lab type.

Access & Transport

ORB Incubator is situated 5 minutes from Junction 7 of the M11, providing easy access to London, Stansted Airport, Cambridge and the wider national motorway network. As well as the excellent road access to the ORB Incubator, it also benefits from good train connections through its two mainline stations – Harlow Town and Harlow Mill, providing direct access to London Liverpool Street, Stansted Airport and Cambridge. Central London can be reached in 35 minutes and Stansted in 20 minutes. Utilising the London Underground connection at Tottenham Hale, Oxford Circus can be reached in 45 minutes. Although ORB Incubator shuttles are running 15 hours a day.

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