Room for everyone

Playing Tetris with Zernike

The Faculty of Science and Engineering is bursting at the seams. The number of students continues to grow, as does the number of researchers. Housing manager Andrys Weitenberg shuffles people around, breaks down walls, and creates computer laboratories in storage rooms. ‘It’s one big puzzle.’
By Christien Boomsma / Photo by ©Droninger / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen


Nijenborgh 4

Nijenborgh 4


Photos by Félipe Silva

Nijenborgh 4

Three brand new teaching laboratories with forty new fume hoods, two new computer labs with 96 workstations.

Good old Nijenborgh 4. Some people hate the building. It’s terribly energy-inefficient, the installations are woefully out of date, legionella bacteria grow in the pipes, and even the glue holding the windows together is full of asbestos.

Housing manager Andrys Weitenberg knows all about it. Windows regularly break. The window frames are made of steel, and the rust on them either breaks the windows or causes leaking. But they can’t be replaced. ‘We’d have to remove all the asbestos, and that’s a costly operation that would disrupt people.’

So he improvises. He covers cracked windows with foil to keep them in place. Every day, two men go through the entire building to flush out the taps to prevent germs from settling down. Some researchers have bought and installed their own air-conditioning unit, because the building’s cooling system wasn’t sufficient.

Even then, things go wrong. Leakages are happening at an increasing rate. Sometimes they occur right over an electrical cabinet and cause a short circuit, which is a problem. ‘We have to evacuate the building and it’s just a huge mess. Researchers lose their research. Those are some of the crappier things about this building’, says Weitenberg.

Many people want this same building, but new

And yet. ‘It’s a nice building’, he says. ‘It’s particularly functional. I know a lot of people who agree with me. When they were making plans for the Feringa Building and asking people what they needed in a workspace, most people wanted a building exactly like this one, only newer.’

Nijenborgh 4, says Weitenberg, is solid. The basement floors are a metre and a half thick. ‘They’ve held up reliably for fifty years. I really like that.’

He doesn’t mind having to put time into the ‘old lady’. Only two weeks ago, he finished construction on three new educational laboratories in the buildings 5114 and 5116. They’re state of the art, using water-saving cooling systems and a central vacuum pump that’s connected to several fume hoods, saving energy.

Because several computer rooms had to move to make room for the labs, two new computer rooms will be outfitted on the ground floor, with 96 workstations in total. This in turn meant that a storeroom for educational materials had to be moved. Weitenberg: ‘It’s one big puzzle.’



Linnaeusborg 4


Photos by Félipe Silva


The building’s ventilation system is being expanded to benefit Ben Feringa’s CBBC group coming to the site. The Gelifes biologists will lose room, and educational laboratories will move from the eighth floor to the second.

Andrys Weitenberg admits the Linnaeusborg is a little frustrating. The building is only ten years old, but he and the facility management project leaders have to extensively overhaul the ventilation system. Only then can the chemical laboratories for the CBBC’s molecule builders be housed there. It’s a big job, and it will cost seven million euros.

‘When they built this place, they made sure everything was working at maximum capacity’, says Weitenberg. ‘Originally, the former Biological Centre was going to Haren, and their ventilation needs were much lower. But then the chemists arrived, and we immediately started running out of room.

The chemists on the eighth floor are working with a system of ‘demand-driven lab ventilation’, Weitenberg explains. If more than 70 percent of the fume hoods are being used simultaneously, an alarm goes off and the next fume hood locks down.

Weitenberg says it’s a typical example of how not to be economical when constructing a building. ‘This will maybe cost ten times what they saved when they built it’, he estimates. ‘I hope we learned our lesson for the Feringa Building.’

This will maybe cost ten times what they saved when they built it

The CBBC is scheduled to start work next year. This means that people from facility management, builders, and technicians are hard at work to see the renovations through. They’ve started stripping rooms on the first floor, while Weitenberg tries to solve the puzzle of where to place the vacuum machines.

If all goes according to plan, he’ll be able to put them in the attic. ‘I was afraid I might have to put them on the roof. But we would’ve had issues with the architect and the building permits’, says Weitenberg.

That does mean that the current installations, which easily measure three by fifteen metres, will have to be moved. Channels that are currently thirty centimetres across will have to be replaced by channels that are ninety centimetres across. In the atrium, they will have to install channels that are 150 centimetres across. Not to mention the enormous boiler they currently have no room for.

In order to make all the changes, the building’s air circulation system will have to be shut down, and the Linnaeusborg will close down for a while. ‘Maybe as long as a week.’ Researcher can’t do their work without air circulation, since it’s dangerous. How long the building will be closed and how he can minimise inconveniencing the people who work there Weitenberg doesn’t yet know.

Nevertheless, he loves his job. ‘The budget only became available three weeks ago and the contractors just started work immediately. The first labs should be up and running by next year’, says Weitenberg. ‘It doesn’t get any better than this.’




Photos by Félipe Silva


The board and staff departments are leaving the Bernoulliborg to make room for the people from the Bernoulli institute. The study centre is getting a facelift.

To be honest, the Bernoulliborg is a relatively simple building to maintain. There are some climate control issues, but that’s about it. ‘The building kind of has two faces’, says Andrys Weitenberg. ‘The two lower floors are full of life, because of the students there. But the upper floors are much calmer.’

The Bernoulliborg currently houses not just the mathematics and computer science departments, but also the science communication department, the board, and staff departments such as human resources. There are no laboratories here; it’s a ‘dry building’, which makes upkeep much easier. ‘All we need to do is paint or move some walls here and there. That’s it.’

‘The only tricky bit about the building is that people can’t control the climate in their individual offices’, he says. ‘The temperature is one size fits all, so to speak. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for everyone.’

To solve this, heaters have been added to the offices. ‘As long as building management is the only one to distribute them’, says Weitenberg. ‘That way we know they’re safe.’

All we need to do is paint or move some walls here and there, that’s it.

The Bernoulliborg isn’t standing still, though. The Bernoulli Institute has been growing fast, in part due to a bequest made possible by founding the research group Cognigron. Over the next five years, the building will hire seventy more people, and the number of master students will go from one hundred to 145.

Some people have already started moving; the course teachers have moved to the Linnaeusborg. The people at ISEC, the science communication department, will be joining the KVI-CART at their building. It’s not yet been decided where the board and the servuces department will be moving to. ‘But the idea of putting people in temporary container buildings seems to be off the table’, says Weitenberg.

Let’s not forget the plans to renovate the study centre on the ground floor. ‘We’re working hard on the designs’, says Weitenberg. ‘People want more places to study by themselves, but we also want to improve the overall atmosphere. The furniture is from way back when the space was used as a library.’

The study centre currently has eighty study spots; this will be expanded to become 130. ‘We’ll have quiet zones where people can concentrate as well as space where people can interact.’




Photos by Félipe Silva

KVI-Centre for Advanced Radiation Technology

It’s likely that the KVI-CART cafeteria will make way for seven office spaces for the ISEC, the science communication institute. The hallway will become a plaza where people can get a bite to eat and have meetings.

The KVI-Centre for Advanced Radiation Technology, also known as KVI-CART is housed in a building on the outskirts of the Zernike campus. It can be described as ‘solid’. It’s another building from the seventies, with steel window frames and asbestos. The windows do appear to be in better shape than those at Nijenborgh, though. They definitely don’t break as often. And let us not forget particle accelerator AGOR, which has been built between concrete walls several metres thick.

‘It has its issues, of course’, says building manager Henk Merk, but the problems have been few and far between and the building is maintained well.

Although it doesn’t strictly belong to the scientific faculty, the bonds are strong. That is why Andrys Weitenberg asked Merk for help when he was looking for space for the people at the ISEC, the science communication department.

Merk had some ideas. The first floor of the KVI-CART building currently holds a cafeteria and a kitchen. That means there’s room for office space. ‘Although we will have to find an alternative space for people to eat or set up meetings’, he says.

This building is like an old coat: not pretty anymore, but very comfortable

The current plan involves moving the catering department to the hallway on the ground floor. This space was due for a facelift anyway, or as Merk calls it, a ‘revitalisation’. ‘We’re making it an open space.’ They’ll be building a restaurant and meeting rooms. It will be a space where employees can meet with visitors, have a cup of coffee, and eat a meal. ‘Like a sort of miniature plaza.’

The plans haven’t been finalised yet, he emphasises, but the property and investments department is working on it. It will mean that the ISEC people will have a slightly longer commute than they’re used to. ‘The KVI-CART has a reputation of being out of the way, but it’s just a few minutes by bike’, he says. ‘There are plenty of parking space, room for all the bikes, and everything people might need.’ The most important thing about the building is that it’s peaceful. ‘You can really focus on your work here.’

Weitenberg agrees. It’s a nice building, he says. Like an old coat that still fits. ‘It may not be as pretty as it once used to be, but it’s so very comfortable.’


Energy Academy


Photos by Félipe Silva

Energy Academy

Moving a few walls should create two extra office spaces. On the ground floor, they’re adding a lactation room.

The Energy Academy is by far the easiest building to maintain, says Weitenberg. It is of course the youngest building of the lot, which means it doesn’t need a lot of work.

When the Energy Academy was first built, there was an issue involving leakage underneath the winter garden. ‘But that’s all been dealt with’, says Weitenberg. Right now, only the woodwork needs a new coat of varnish.

We can create a dedicated lactation room here

There are a few other small modifications made to the building. Research institute ESRIG needs two new office spaces. ‘But facility management is stretched so thin right now that we’re postponing work on that for a bit.’

Another plan, creating a separate lactation room, should be realised by next year. Right now, women with a new baby can only pump at the Bernoulliborg, in a room shared with the first aid department. It’s getting too crowded.

‘But there’s a little room left in the Energy Academy. We can create a dedicated lactation room on the ground floor, in what’s currently a storage room. It might be the first lactation room of its sort at the university.’




Photos by Joke Bakker

Herdershut on Schiermonnikoog

Group accommodation De Herdershut on Schiermonnikoog, where RUG biologists and students stay when they’re doing fieldwork, is being torn down completely. A new building will be erected.

Upon departing the boat at Schiermonnikoog, don’t turn left towards the village, but go east at the end of the pier: you’ll end up at De Herdershut (The Shepherd’s Hut). The building, erected in 1982, has 38 beds, a small kitchen, a basic laboratory, and an observation tower for bird watching. Biologists and their students have been using the place for years as a base of operation for fieldwork. ‘It’s got the feel of a holiday accommodation’, says Andrys Weitenberg.

But the building is way past its prime. It’s leaking and the wood is beginning to rot. ‘It’s worn out.’ He expects to receive the demolition and construction permits any day now. ‘We’ll be able to tear down the old building and erect a new one in its place.’

This building has the feel of a holiday accommodation

Unfortunately, the project will take longer than he’d originally thought. ‘We figured we’d get it done between September and May. People hardly use the place in winter.’

Alas. Erecting the new building will take almost a year. He hasn’t yet come up with a solution that will spare the biologists the inconvenience.

The new building will offer practically the same facilities as the old one, he says. The biggest improvement is that the big dorm with its bunkbeds will be replaced by smaller bedrooms with a maximum capacity of four people.

The real shepherd’s hut, which this facility was named after, will continue to exist. After all, it’s a historical monument.



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