Conversion of Earth Simulation Lab into a sustainable research laboratory started

On Sustainable UU Day 2016, Tuesday 11 October, the renovation of the former Robert J. van de Graaff laboratory into an Earth Simulation Lab (ESL) was officially launched. Executive Board member Anton Pijpers, Director of H&S Dries Berendsen, Dean of Geosciences Piet Hoekstra and Director of Operations Geosciences Chris Marcelis punched a beam through the wall, marking the start of the renovation. Scientists of Utrecht University will carry out research in the ESL in a top environment at the beginning of 2018. Various groups from the Faculty of Geosciences will then meet and inspire each other in a sustainable setting. Sustainable and innovative measures will be taken in the ESL in order to achieve the BREEAM 'Excellent' rating for the building.

Op de Duurzame UU-dag 2016, dinsdag 11 oktober, is de verbouwing van het voormalige Robert J. van de Graafflaboratorium tot Earth Simulation Lab (ESL) officieel gestart (Foto: Hans van Leeuwen)

Re-use is the biggest asset

The former Robert J. van de Graaff laboratory, a concrete colossus from the 1960s that housed a particle accelerator, seemed completely unsuitable for reuse. Yet technical consultants ABT and Barcode Architects managed to transform it into a modern and sustainable laboratory. The building was completely stripped and then rebuilt. Through clever use of the existing spaces and energy-efficient design solutions, the design scores 76% on the BREEAM sustainability scale of the Dutch Green Building Council. This means that the building more than merits 4 stars on a scale of 5, or the qualification 'Excellent'. The double façade and connection to the thermal energy storage system are just a few examples that earn this 4-star rating.

High-quality research in ESL

The aim to raise the level of research and education at Utrecht University is taking shape in the ESL. After all, we are faced with major social challenges such as climate change, and the university wants to contribute to finding solutions for complex problems through interdisciplinary cooperation. Two departments of the Faculty of Geosciences will carry out part of their research in ESL: the Department of Earth Sciences, with research on the earth as a system, and the Department of Physical Geography, with research on coastal and land degradation processes.

Utrecht University and sustainability

Sustainability, one of Utrecht University's four strategic themes, plays an important role in research, education, valorisation and business operations. The university takes its social responsibility to make an active contribution to a sustainable society in ecological, economic and social terms. Utrecht University also sees it as part of its social duty to make students and staff aware of the challenges in the field of sustainability, and to contribute to solutions for these challenges through research.

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