New London Architecture



PEARL - UCL's first net-zero carbon in-use building - is a unique purpose-built laboratory facility for the creation of full-size environments to test how people use infrastructure and cities.
Knowledge Networks: London and the Ox-Cam Arc

Knowledge Networks: London and the Ox-Cam Arc

 PEARL (Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory) — UCL's first net-zero carbon in-use building — will be a unique, urban prototype laboratory for the creation of fullsize environments to test how people use infrastructure and cities. The UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) is the basis for the UK Government’s investment in PEARL. UKCRIC is a set of new laboratories currently spread amongst 14 universities in the UK, designed to enable innovative research to drive the investment of £600bn in infrastructure in the UK over the next 50 years. PEARL will be the UCL element of the UKCRIC facility.  

UKCRIC represents the Government’s — and Research Councils’ — support for research in infrastructure in and between cities. PEARL will be the only UKCRIC facility that involves multiscalar analysis of people and their interactions with infrastructure and city environments. It thus lies at the heart of the UKCRIC philosophy and implementation.

Opening in 2021, this unique facility will explore the ways in which people interact with their environment. It will allow researchers to engage with the public to discover what activities people want or need to do, and the ways in which the environment helps or hinders them. From this knowledge researchers will then be able to apply and test the ways in which the environment can be designed to enable people to live with a greater quality of life. At approximately 4,000sqm, and 10m high, this unique, reconfigurable lab has been designed for multi-scale research into access and mobility in its broadest sense, from navigating kerbs in wheelchairs to observing people flow in, off and within transport to improve train design and maximise space inside aircraft. The facility will encourage the local community to engage with the research as participants.

 PEARL will study interactions at a micro-scale, such as brain activity, skin response, mass-distribution in the foot, or emotional responses. The physical displacements of people in response to environmental design (what they see, touch, hear, smell or feel) or to dynamic conditions (such as explosions, instructions or exogenous movements) will also be studied. In turn, the effects of design on people will be studied — capacity, flow, behavioural responses — or the effectiveness of therapies (e.g. remediation of locomotory, eye or hearing conditions) in the course of a person’s daily lived activities, and to research in detail the impacts of the environment on stress, contentment, fear, safety, and other perceptions, (e.g. fairness, culture, inclusion, or navigation).

 PEARL will allow the public, researchers in many disciplines, regulators, implementers and others to see what operation and design ideas would look, feel and work like, thereby cutting the cost of trying out new ideas by testing them in the laboratory before trialling them for real on-street.

 ‘PEARL goes to the heart of what makes UCL distinctive, by demonstrating in integrative form the power of engineering to deliver the full panoply of UCL’s capabilities in education and research for society. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for UCL to lead on a global stage.’
Professor Nigel Titchener-Hooker, Dean, UCL Faculty of Engineering Sciences

 ‘A building that will be able to house the world.’
Nick Tyler, Chadwick Professor of Engineering and Director, UCL Centre for Transport Studies
Zero Carbon London

Zero Carbon London

→ BREEAM Excellent
→ Zero Net negative regulated and (predicted) unregulated carbon
→ Prefabricated CLT and steel structures reduce waste
→ Heating and cooling from high efficiency air source heat pumps
→ All timber from certified sustainable sources

PEARL (Person Environment Activity Research Laboratory) will be a new and unique purpose-built research facility for the creation of full-size environments to test how people use infrastructure and cities. PEARL’s objective is to create a world where everyone can experience an improved quality of life through better design of the environment, using an evidence-based understanding of how people interact with it.

UCL’s hugely expansive work at PEARL will range from collaborative research with London Underground to make tube design more accessible to the analysis and design of the built environment for people with dementia. The research is transdisciplinary, multi-scalar and community focused. ‘The Groove’; a lightweight timber ‘building within the building’ houses community-facing facilities, seminar rooms, hyper-flexible workspace, and workshops.

The building will be carbon negative, thanks to highly efficient building fabric and services, with a photovoltaic array covering the entire 4,000 sqm roof that ensures both regulated and (predicted) unregulated energy is entirely renewable. The building is both highly robust and built for deconstruction and the circular economy, maximising recycled and recyclable materials and minimising waste from site through off-site prefabrication and cut and fill site preparation.

Externally, architectural scalloped and perforated weathered steel panels gradually fan out across the west- facing glazed frontage of ‘The Groove’, providing solar shading as a passive environmental measure and acting as flags signifying the entrance.

PEARL — UCL’s first net zero carbon in-use building — will be a unique purpose-built laboratory facility for the creation of full-size environments to test how people use infrastructure and cities.

‘A building to house the world!’ said Professor Nick Tyler, Director of UCL Centre for Transport Studies.

Project information






5900 sq m

Estimated completion

June 2021


Yew Tree Ave, Dagenham RM10, UK

Team Credits


UCL - University College London


Penoyre & Prasad

Project Manager


M&E / Sustainability Engineer


Structural Engineer

Atkins Ltd

Landscape Architect

Atkins Ltd

Planning Consultant

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