London, United Kingdom

A building to house the world

UCL PEARL exterior.
Photo by Timothy Soar

UCL PEARL (Person Environment Activity Research Laboratory) is a state-of-the-art, world-leading research facility dedicated to exploring the ways in which people interact with the environment around them. With a footprint of over 4000m2 and a height of 10m, it supports life-sized recreation of real-world environments from train stations to high streets providing the perfect space for research into accessibility and mobility in its broadest sense.

Working alongside architects Penoyre & Prasad, Charcoalblue designed a vast technical infrastructure to support all the potential requirements of such a highly innovative and flexible facility. Installed technical systems allow the lighting intensity and hues, soundscapes and even smells to support each different environment to be recreated perfectly and with reliable repeatability.

UCL PEARL interior.
Photo by Timothy Soar

Charcoalblue ran the tender for the specialised lighting fixtures. This resulted in bespoke horticultural units customised for the human visual spectrum and designed to split the visible light spectrum into 11 parts, each with a narrow bandwidth. The resulting 11 colours of light can be blended, and the intensities changed to recreate the differences between morning and afternoon light or the light in different parts of the world.

The 4,000m2 roof is covered in solar panels which supply all the building’s power needs and any excess is sent to the national grid. This, coupled with the sustainable building design and construction has resulted in UCL’s first net zero carbon building and the first finished building to ever achieve a BREEAM Outstanding rating under the new BREEAM standards. As well as a world-leading research facility UCL Pearl also seeks to engage with the local community.

UCL PEARL interior.
Photo by Timothy Soar

Residents are invited to come and talk to the PEARL team about the challenges they face when moving around the urban environment. The community can also become involved in the research programme and its experiments. PEARL offers a fully equipped performance/rehearsal space for community arts projects.

Project Details




Penoyre & Prasad





UCL PEARL exterior.
Photo by Timothy Soar

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John Owens is a Charcoalblue Partner responsible for our North American practice.

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