photo:Monica van der Garde
Monica van der Garde
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Design receives BREEAM Excellent qualification

Concrete colossus will become very sustainable Earth Simulation Lab


The renovation design for Utrecht University's Earth Simulation Lab, a laboratory for Geoscientific research, has received the Dutch Green Building Council's sustainable-qualification rating of BREEAM Excellent. The best trump card regarding sustainability was the choice to repurpose the concrete colossus that was built in the 1960s and housed a particle accelerator.

With its giant concrete halls, the former Robert J. van de Graaff Laboratory seems completely unfit for repurposing. Still, ABT and Barcode Architects succeeded in making a design that transforms it into a modern and sustainable laboratory. By cleverly using the existing spaces and energy-efficient design solutions, the design scored 76% on the BREEAM sustainability scale (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). This generously earns it 4 stars out of 5, otherwise known as the qualification of 'Excellent'. As the building will not just house offices and workshops, but laboratories as well, a so-called 'Bespoke' procedure with customised sustainability requirement has been followed.

Geosciences and Physical Geography
Two departments of the Faculty of Geosciences will carry out parts of their research there: the Department of Earth Sciences with its research into Earth as a system and the Department of Physical Geography with its research into coastal and bottom degradation processes. A total of 40 researchers will have a steady work station there. Besides that, there will be flexible workplaces for employees who are involved with research that is carried out in the laboratories.

Dutch delta on the outer wall
The design includes a double-skin façade, with an inner wall that consists of aluminium window frames holding HR++ glass. The outer wall consists of single glazing and light-blue concrete panels with inserted strips of stainless steel that represent the Dutch delta. This way, the façade refers to the function of the building.

From the start
Sustainability fit for the highest possible BREEAM norm has been the goal of the project since the beginning of the preparation phase. Close contact with the future users ensured that the design was optimally tuned to their wishes and needs as well.

Completion late 2017
The former Robert J. van de Graaff Laboratory was stripped and redeveloped in 2015. The allocation process for the construction of the new laboratory is well underway and is expected to be completed in late July 2016, allowing for the construction to start in the autumn. The laboratory can then be expected to be completed in late 2017 and become operational in the course of 2018.

More information
Jacqueline van Winden,, tel. +31 (0)30 253 21 39

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