Future-proof buildings

This theme covers all the buildings managed and used by the university. ‘Future-proof’ is about maintaining and creating real estate with a future-proof quality. The university wants to focus on value: social value, ecological value and economic value.

The strategy to achieve this was laid down in February 2019 and approved by the Executive Board. The aim is for all UU buildings to become healthy, functional, energy-generating and circular. The principle of ‘managing for value’ has also been translated into the Strategic Housing Plan (September 2019).

A balance between social, ecological and economic values leads to sustainable choices in the development of university real estate. The costs of future-proof buildings are offset by important benefits, such as promoting the wellbeing of students, lecturers and researchers and improving their well-being (social). Other benefits include a reduction in energy costs (economic), the preservation of material and raw material value, as well as proactively anticipating the increasingly stringent energy legislation pending the energy transition (ecological).

In 2019, the foundations were laid for a future-proof development of the university property, the campus grounds and the energy transition. Now it is a question of making a real impact with the construction projects that the university will be carrying out over the next ten years.

View of the Hugo R. Kruyt building
The to-be-renovated Kruytgebouw


Utrecht University uses the BREEAM method to measure the sustainability of new and existing buildings.

Existing buildings are subject to InUse certification. For new construction projects, the BREEAM-NL New Building Directive applies, which measures the sustainability performance upon completion. As with In-Use, the building is assessed in nine areas: management, health, energy, transport, water, materials, waste, land use and ecology and pollution.

Energy labels provide insight into the energy performance of buildings and are expressed as a score from A++ to G. In 2023, all office buildings in the Netherlands must comply with energy label C. Partly for this reason, the university has decided to have an energy label drawn up for all large buildings on the USP. This already started in 2016 and was also applied to other buildings within last year. This will continue in 2020.

Drinking water consumption shows how much tap water the university consumes in all its buildings. By measuring the consumption annually, it becomes clear whether the university achieves water savings through, for example, more economical buildings.

KPIs for measuring sustainability in buildings

6.1 BREEAM New Building and Renovation

In 2019, no new BREEAM-NL-New Building Certificates have been obtained. However, the certificate for the Life Sciences Incubator (LSI) building has been added. For this building, the university obtained a certificate with level Excellent. A total of three university buildings with an Excellent level have now been certified.

6.2 BREEAM In-Use

In 2019, the university started the certification of twenty buildings on the Utrecht Science Park at BREEAM-NL In-Use, under the name BREEAM Campus approach. The necessary information was collected last year. No official BREEAM certificates have yet been obtained in 2019, but they are expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

6.3 Energy labels

There were already seven buildings with an energy label in 2019, as well as the Vening Meineszgebouw A and C, Earth Simulation Laboratory and Jeannette Donkervoet building. Eleven buildings now have an energy label. The remaining nine buildings at the USP will be labelled in 2020. By 2023, all office buildings will at least be awarded energy label C, and by 2030 they must be legally awarded energy label A. The university currently has no target for the remaining buildings. These are, for example, buildings in the city centre with monumental status, for which other rules apply.

6.4 Drinking water consumption

Drinking water consumption in 2019 remained the same as in 2018: 217,000 litres. In 2019, the university did not take any new measures to reduce drinking water consumption. Drinking water consumption is not a specific area of attention for the university, as it did not emerge directly from the materiality analysis. However, water consumption is a point for attention in the BREEAM certification. A decrease is therefore expected in the coming years when old buildings disappear and new, more economical buildings are put into use.

Activities 2019

  1. Van Unnik and Kruytgebouw redevelopment
    In 2019, the Executive Board decided not to demolish the Willem C. van Unnik building but to redevelop it. The high-rise building (approx. 27,000 m²) is an iconic Utrecht University building on the campus. A feasibility study showed that the structure (the skeleton) is in good condition and suitable for office and educational functions. Reuse of the hull means a considerable saving in raw materials, CO2 emissions and transport compared to the demolition and total reconstruction. In addition to the van Unnik complex, the Hugo R. Kruyt building (total approx. 50,000 m²) is also being redeveloped into a modern research facility. The enormous concrete base construction is of good quality.
  2. CvB defined ambition document Future-proof Buildings and Strategic Housing Plan
    To give substance to the sustainable ambitions of the Strategic Plan 2016-2020, Utrecht University has drawn up the ambition document Future-proof Buildings in which four specific ambitions are elaborated into themes, starting points and concrete sustainability measures. Subsequently, by adopting the Strategic Housing Plan, the university embraced the future-proof ambitions for all UU buildings.
  3. Director V&C has been elected Green Leader of the Dutch Green Building Council
    This year’s award for personal leadership in the green construction and real estate sector was won by Fiona van ‘t Hullenaar, Director of Real Estate & Campus at Utrecht University.
  4. Joint Strategic Sustainability Plan drawn up for V&C and FSC
    The sustainability ambitions and objectives of Real Estate & Campus and the Facility Service Centre have been combined in a Strategic Sustainability Plan.
  5. Creating a healthy working environment for Achter Sint Pieter 200 with WELL
    As part of the UU vision on future-proof buildings, research has been carried out into the possibilities of using the Well Building Standard. This is a recently developed certification methodology aimed at the health and well-being of users in buildings. The WELL methodology focuses on the quality of: air, water, food, light, movement, temperature, sound, materials, spirit and community.
    The WELL method was tested as a pilot in the renovation of Achter Sint Pieter 200. For example, the WELL method has requirements for materials and products such as floor coverings, paints, coatings, adhesives and sealants in the interior. This prevents the spread of volatile organic compounds. As a result, the quality of the air inside is much higher.
  6. Utrecht University has become a knowledge partner of INSIDE/INSIDE
    INSIDE/INSIDE is an independent organisation that provides insight into choices for a sustainable interior using a platform that assesses materials and products in terms of environmental impact, circularity and health effects. In 2019, Utrecht University joined INSIDE/INSIDE as a knowledge partner. This also works as a signal about the importance of sustainability to the university’s suppliers.
  7. Sustainability of monument Janskerkhof 13/13a
    A study has been carried out into the opportunities for making Janskerkhof 13/13a more sustainable in collaboration with experts on making monuments such as De Groene Grachten more sustainable. The objectives in the Ambition Document Future-proof Buildings were leading in this. The study revealed, that it is extremely important to better insulate the building. The study serves as an example for renovation and maintenance projects in the city centre.

Outlook 2020

  • In 2020, the university will implement the starting points and sustainability objectives of ambitions from Future-proof Buildings in upcoming construction projects. This will enable the UU to translate its ambitions into action.
  • For 20 existing buildings on the USP, a BREEAM-NL In-Use certificate will be carried out and the university will provide an energy label.