RAI Building

The RAI Building

The Institute is housed in an award-winning modern building, designed by the international architects Kohn, Pedersen, Fox, whose other buildings include the Shanghai World Financial Center and One Vanderbilt, the tallest office tower in Midtown Manhattan. The RAI building is constructed from the traditional Oxford materials of Bath stone, with American oak and zinc – a fittingly trans-Atlantic building for a project designed to strengthen old ties and create new ones.

A picture of RAI building 03
A photo of RAI building 2


The building’s modern style utilises exposed concrete, extensive glass, and steel throughout. The horizontal louvres on the front of our building both reduce the need for mechanical ventilation and give the RAI a distinctive appearance. This design is reflected in our logo.

The Vere Harmsworth Library occupies the upper floors, where the main reading room features 23-foot-high windows. There is study space for nearly one hundred readers at shared tables and individual carrels. Large windows admit daylight into the offices and seminar rooms on the middle and lower floors, and those on the ground level open out onto the tranquil RAI terrace and garden.

Environmental impact

​​​​​The RAI is committed to minimising its impact on the environment through energy conservation and efficiency. The Institute was built with environmental systems in place to lessen energy use: the building is naturally ventilated and designed to maximise air-flow within the library and its offices, and does not require air-conditioning.

In 2019, the RAI achieved an Energy Performance Rating (EPR) of 51, showing its energy use to be significantly lower than the typical EPR of 100 for a building of its size. This represented a fall since 2015 when the rating was 54, and 2010 when the rating was 71. Emissions of carbon dioxide from the building’s energy consumption have also fallen considerably in recent years, from 131 tonnes in 2010 to 103 tonnes in 2015, to 93 tonnes in 2019.

In 2017, we completed a large-scale project to replace all the lighting throughout the building with energy efficient and responsive LEDs, while solar panels were installed on the roof in December 2015. This was funded by the University Sustainability Fund.


an array of solar panels on a roof


The Institute is fully accessible for those requiring level access, with a ramp to the entrance and lift access to all floors. There is limited parking but a space can normally be reserved on request for visitors needing to park close by.

Full accessibility information may be found on the University Access Guide, and we encourage visitors with particular access requirements to contact us.