Case Study

Somerville College, The Catherine Hughes Project

ClientSomerville College
LocationOxford, England
ProjectNew-build, Student Accommodation (68 rooms)
ServiceFull Quantity Surveying Services

This Oxford institution, with such famous alumni as Margret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi, wanted to enhance and expand its student living quarters to a point where they will be able to offer all undergraduate members accommodation on site. The Client hired architectural firm Niall McLaughlin to create a building that provides en-suite bathrooms arranged in clusters with kitchens, social space and accessible rooms on every floor, as well as a new communal study area.

Somerville College - from the road

Design of the Catherine Hughes Project commenced in 2016 and CHP was instructed to carry out quantity surveying services. The design team included project managers Bidwells, architects Niall McLaughlin, structural engineers AKS Ward and MEP engineers Ridge. The final design was an intricate layout of 68 en suite rooms, social spaces and a communal study area all set across 5 floors.

The building was constructed using a CLT (cross laminated timber) structure with exposed feature areas such as walls, staircases and soffits. The external walls were constructed using traditional brickwork facing and a lightweight structural framing system.


The project was completed on time and within budget and was a great example of the whole team collaborating to deliver a great project for the Client.


The city centre site is situated between existing buildings and had a very narrow access to the site. All construction activities were managed to ensure good relationships with neighbours and the local highways department.

During the tender process, local contractor Beard Construction introduced the alternative method of using a CLT (cross laminated timber) frame in lieu of concrete, whilst maintaining the same exterior facade. This resulted in a saving in time and cost due to the quicker frame erection period. It also achieved a more sustainable building solution.

Somerville College - bedroom CLT frame
Somerville College - close site