Top draw for top talent?

Will a high-tech facility help draw and keep international scientific talent at TU Delft? University insiders certainly think so.

In 2016, a part of the Faculty of Applied Sciences moves to a new building. It has been custom designed as a research facility for various applied sciences such as chemical engineering, biotechnology and bionano-sciences. A team of Dutch contractors and architectural firm Ector Hoogstad Architecten worked closely with researches and educators in these fields, keeping in mind the scientific demands on the design.

The four-storey building is part of the university’s long term vision to attract top talent with the world’s best facilities. Do they really think it works? “This is true for all our disciplines, but perhaps the most visible in our Bionanoscience department, that started in 2010. During the last years they have attracted very good scientists from all over the world to work here. The fact that there are currently many custom-built bionano labs under construction, with very high lab standards, has certainly helped with that,” said Prof. Tim van der Hagen, the dean of the faculty.

The university’s Department of Facility Management and Real Estate (FMRE) aims to optimise the use of space on campus and to use sustainable energy as much as possible. “I also find it important that the building is open and inviting to discuss with each other, both for employees and students,” added Van der Hagen. It will be able to accommodate 800 students, 30 professors and 590 staff members.

With another building close to the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering and a park to be shared among faculties, there is also an emphasis on integration among students and better connectivity with the rest of campus.

“Our vision is to trim off the excess space and focus on making the existing space of the highest possible standard. With some faculties we can do so by upgrading existing facilities, but for certain departments of Applied Sciences that wasn’t the case. Hence a new additional building was planned. Other Faculty buildings such as Aerospace Engineering, Civil Engineering and EWI will also be renovated eventually,” said Janneke Kamstra of FMRE.

“The whole building will be built on an extra-high foundation to ensure that movement in the water table below doesn’t affect on-going measurements in the labs,” explained Kamstra. These labs include a multipurpose hall, fermentation labs, chemical labs and areas for laboratory courses with many fume cupboards and very high ventilation rates. Some of the labs will be ventilated 15-30 times per hour.

Carefully constructed low-vibration laboratories are important as tiniest alterations in the environment can affect research results. These labs will hence have a steady environment, building and climate. The temperature (delta T) will be maintained at 0.1 degrees. There will also be ML2 laboratories for biomaterials research with high-risk organisms. ML2 labs are labs that require extreme cleanliness and safety protocols.

A mock-up of the HR lab was built in the former FMRE building with all these specs. Problems found were then addressed before the actual building began. “Beside the mock up, we have been conducting research on every possible factor that can cause vibrations – from the environment, to the water levels, to traffic on the road and boats in the canal, the state of the ground, nearby research companies and so on,” added Kamstra. The roads nearby will be closed off to traffic.

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