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Vibration-free VU Research Building reaches its highest point

30 May 2022
The Zuidas skyline has a brand-new landmark: the VU Research Building recently reached its full height of 57 metres.

The building is located at the VU Campus on De Boelelaan. It forms part of the Zuidas Innovation District and consists of a front section of 57 metres and a rear section of 30 metres. The installation of a precast cover plate on the elevator shaft means that the highest point of the building is now in place. The shell construction phase is complete and the building’s glass façade will soon follow.

Research into the Human Health & Life Sciences

The VU Research Building will house cutting-edge research and teaching facilities on the theme of Human Health & Life Sciences, enabling scientists to make incredibly precise measurements. Its floors will be home to some 65 vibration-free laser set-ups, a facility for electron microscopy, radioactive labs and a clean room. Over half of the available spaces will contain ML-II level laboratories. The building also offers plenty of opportunities for meeting, conferences, eating and drinking. A total of about 500 staff will work there.

Together with the O|2 Lab Building and the New University Building, the VU Research Building will replace the ageing W&N Building, most of which is due for demolition in the near future. Learn more about the research facilities at vu.nl/onderzoeksgebouwvu and in the short YouTube film: ‘VU Research Building: highest point of construction reached’.

Concrete blocks the size of living rooms

The realisation of the VU Research Building is in the capable hands of a construction alliance of TBI firms J.P. van Eesteren and Croonwolter&dros. The building was designed by innovative architectural office cepezed. Their design takes into account all of the conditions that modern laboratories require. The low-rise building is vibration-free, and a range of measures have been taken in both the construction and the installations to achieve this. For instance, though they appear to be two parts of the same building, the high-rise section (12 floors) and the low-rise section (6 floors) are structurally disconnected.

Michel Hoogendoorn, Director of Project Realisation at J.P. van Eesteren, fills in the details: ‘The building is two to three times sturdier than any other building of its size due to its heavy foundations surrounded by a poured diaphragm wall 25 metres deep and one metre thick. That wall is designed to counteract ambient vibrations from the busy urban surroundings. In the basement, four blocks of solid concrete, each the size of a generous living room and weighing 90 tons, rest on thick slabs of rubber. These will provide the base for the laser set-ups and electron microscopes on the floor above.’

Higher installation density than a hospital

The building’s installation density is a factor of two to three times higher than that of a hospital. All specialisms are covered: mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, measurement and control engineering, fire alarm systems, sprinkler systems, medical and technical gases and high voltage.

Cees Vos, Director of National Projects at Croonwolter&dros, explains: ‘Having taken all the necessary architectural precautions, you also have to make sure that the installations don’t transmit any vibrations. The installations on the fifth and sixth floors of the high-rise service both sections of the building. So everything that crosses from there to the low-rise has to be vibration-free. All air supply and exhaust ducts, all water pipes (including the sprinkler system), and all their suspension brackets are fitted with rubber rings or vibration dampeners.’

Two sections, one building

The high-rise section acts as a vibration buffer for the low-rise building behind it. The low-rise section has to be completely vibration-free in order to facilitate the scientific measurement equipment it contains. The two sections are structurally disconnected, and the space between them takes the form of a skylight, where the concrete structure has been left visible. This gives users the experience of being in a single building.

Sustainable campus development

Franc van Nunen, Director of Campus Development at VU Amsterdam, outlines the sustainability aspects of the project: ‘In addition to a permanent investment in teaching and research, VU Amsterdam wants to flesh out its sustainability ambitions with this new building project. Sustainable measures have been incorporated from the earliest stages of the design. Think low-energy lifts, LED lighting and water-efficient plumbing. The energy-efficient heating and cooling of the building is achieved using a CHP system. The building has been designed according to the guidelines of the BREEAM New Building Design Certificate.’

Work schedule

The next phase of construction is now underway: the final structural work with the placement of primary installations, cavity barriers (between the ceiling and installations) and interior walls. This will be followed by the final fit-out, starting in July. By early November, the building will be completely wind and watertight, with delivery due by the end of 2023.