SKA Global Headquarters
The SKA Global Headquarters is the home of the SKA Observatory, the intergovernmental organisation set up to facilitate global collaboration in radio astronomy and build the SKA telescopes.
The SKA Global Headquarters (GHQ) is the home of the SKA Observatory, the intergovernmental organisation set up to facilitate global collaboration in radio astronomy. Eventually home to some 150 staff from around the world, it will be tasked with managing the construction and remotely monitoring the operation of the SKA telescopes, located in southern Africa and Western Australia.
The SKA GHQ was designed to embody one of the most innovative science research organisations in the world. An inspirational building that reflects the science and vision behind the SKA project and that fosters a culture of collaboration and communication. The unique character and history of Jodrell Bank presented an opportunity to create an inspirational workplace for the SKA.
Whilst acknowledging and celebrating the physical and historical context of the place, the building aims to create its own distinctive identity and unique architecture that represents the SKA and the science behind the project. The design takes inspiration from the radio waves that are at the heart of the SKA’s work while embracing its natural environment, playing on the contrast between the cutting edge science taking place within the building and the rural life taking place around it.
“We wanted to be a real nexus for radio astronomy”
– Prof. Philip Diamond, SKA Director-General
The 4,200m2 SKA GHQ will eventually be home to more than 150 staff from more than 16 countries, tasked with managing the construction and remotely monitoring the operations of the SKA telescopes, located in Southern Africa and Western Australia.
Equipped with a 10Gbit/s connection to the national research network, the building includes a total of 18 meeting rooms equipped with state-of-the-art videoconferencing to work with teams spread over 20 time zones, as well as a Council Chamber which can be converted into a 160-seat auditorium for scientific conferences and public talks.
With a 40% target reduction in water consumption, 25% of construction materials from recycled or reused content, electric vehicle charging points as well as dark-sky compliant lighting and a highly efficient heat pump system, the building also exceeds sustainable requirements.
- Sir Robert MacAlpine Principal Contractor, Principal Designer, Cost Planner
- HASSELL Architect, Lead Designer
- Buro Four Client Project Manager and NEC Project Manager
- Plan IT Landscape Architect
- WYG Structural & Civil Engineer, Highways, BREEAM, Ecology, SI
- Mott MacDonald Mechanical & Electrical Engineer, Specialist IT
- Hann Tucker Acoustic Engineer
- Jeremy Gardner Fire Engineer
- Versatile Partnership Catering Specialist
Phases & Milestones
The headquarters design team have been following the RIBA Plan of Work, which is the definitive UK model for the building design and construction process. Below is an up-to-date version of the SKA’s RIBA timeline, which indicates a number of key project stages throughout the design and construction process.
- Official opening ceremony – 10 July 2019
- July 2018 – Internal building fit-out completed; informal handover of building takes place
- June 2018 – Electrical commissioning, landscaping and car parks completed
- May 2018 – Mechanical commissioning completed
- December 2017 – Steel frame and building superstructure completed
- August 2017 – Topping out complete
- June 2017 – Earthworks and pad foundations completed
- 28th April 2017 – Groundbreaking Ceremony
- 29th March 2017 – Start of main construction works on site (RIBA stage 5)
- February 2017 – Start of early enabling works on site
- January 2017 – Technical design (RIBA stage 4) approved
- August 2016 – Planning application approved
- June 2016 – Developed design (RIBA stage 3) approved
- March 2016 – Concept design stage (RIBA stage 2) approved
- December 2015 – Preparation & brief (RIBA stage 0 & 1) approved
- April 2015 – Decision to host the SKA HQ in the UK at the Jodrell Bank Site
The UK plan to host the SKA GHQ was backed by the UK government via UK Research & Innovation’s Science and Technology Facilities Council, the University of Manchester and Cheshire East Council, as well as Oxford and Cambridge Universities, to design and construct a unique campus for one of the most inspirational science projects of the 21st Century.
The £16.5 million new SKA GHQ was funded by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (£9.8M) via UKRI, the University of Manchester (£5.7M) and Cheshire East Council (£1M).
The SKA GHQ shares a common site with the University of Manchester’s existing Jodrell Bank Observatory and Discovery Centre. Jodrell Bank Observatory – part of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics under University of Manchester’s School of Physics & Astronomy – is a working scientific facility. It operates the Grade-I listed 76-metre Lovell Telescope (jointly funded by the University of Manchester & STFC) – the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world – and a distributed network of 6 additional radio telescopes that form the UK’s e-MERLIN Radio Astronomy National Facility. e-MERLIN also regularly operates as part of the renowned European VLBI Network (EVN). The historical observatory was initially established in 1945 by Sir Bernard Lovell to investigate cosmic rays after his work on radar during the Second World War. It has since played an important role in a number of fields, including the study of meteors, quasars, pulsars, masers and gravitational lenses, and was heavily involved with the tracking of space probes at the start of the Space Age. As such, Jodrell Bank has been a leader in radio astronomy for over 70 years and is now on the UK shortlist for UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
The Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre is responsible for public access to and engagement with both the science and heritage of Jodrell Bank. It is a renowned national and global leader in engaging the public with science and has a central focus on ‘inspiring the scientists of the future’ – which represents the start of the pipeline for skills in STEM. The Centre currently attracts around 165,000 visitors each year, including 22,000 school pupils on educational visits, and has ambitious plans for expansion supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.