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Rubrik: Campus Life

Science City, a textbook case for a higher education institution campus
A beacon of sustainability

Published: 26.04.2007 06:00
Modified: 25.04.2007 21:17
On Tuesday 17 April 2007 ETH Zurich informed its members and the media about the status of Science City. Special attention was paid to the way the campus of the higher education institution can become a textbook example of sustainability, for example by using a dynamic underground thermal energy storage system.

Christoph Meier

“Science City will be a beacon of sustainability.” Walter Steinmann, Director of the Swiss Energy Ministry, reached this conclusion at the end of the media conference on Tuesday 17 April 2007 in the Information Science Laboratory building under construction on the Hönggerberg Campus. A get up and go atmosphere was signalled not only by this statement and the surroundings but also by those in ETH Zurich responsible for Science City – and that in spite of the project having already been underway for several years (1) . They presented the current state of affairs and gave information about forthcoming projects.

Project Director Michael Salzmann pointed out that in spring 2008 researchers will be able to move into the new building in which the media briefing was being held and which had received significant funding from Swiss entrepreneur, Branco Weiss. Subsequent phases relating to infrastructure will start in the same year with the Sport Center and the Life Science Platform. The Life Science Platform comprises a laboratory and research building with integral accommodation for small animals, in other words housing for experimental animals such as mice or rats.

The plans for student housing and an academic guesthouse are somewhat further off in the future, although the architecture competitions for them are already taking place this year. No concrete data is available yet for the Learning and Community Centre/Library or Corporate Embassies intended to give companies direct access to scientists. However, contact with industry is already being strengthened by the Science City meeting point, which provides information in its new program about spin-offs and start-ups, among other things.

An energy concept for the whole campus

Sustainability is an important issue whose cause has been taken up by ETH Zurich for Science City. According to Gerhard Schmitt, ETH Zurich Vice-president for Planning and Logistics, that the HIT building conforms to the “Minergie” standard and the sports building to the “Minergie-Eco” standard is not sufficient. He said the entire campus needed an exemplary energy concept. The aim of this is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 50 percent and to bring emissions below the requirements of the 2000 watt society.

Life Science Platform

ETH Zurich intends to expand life science research. The plan is to construct a new laboratory and research building with integral laboratory animal accommodation in Science City for this purpose by 2011. ETH Zurich invited entries to a competition for this Life Science Platform in 2006. Seven teams were chosen from among the 23 entered in a pre-qualifying round and were then invited to enter the competition. These projects can now be seen in an exhibition in the foyer of the HIL building on the Hönggerberg Campus from Thursday 19 April to 15 May.

The “Nezumi” project by the general planning team from the Burckhardt+Partner AG Company, Basel and Zurich, was chosen as the winning project because of its convincing internal organisation structure. According to the jury, the victorious team had succeeded in developing a laboratory building without a long central corridor. Instead the work areas have direct access to a central amenities area. This spatial configuration is said to support the communications aspect of the life science platform.

ETH Zurich Vice-president Gerhard Schmitt explains the target specifications for Science City’s energy parameters to ETH Zurich members.

Schmitt explained that an important element of this aim was the building of a dynamic underground thermal storage system in 2008. Of the different variants tested, this had proved the best option with regard to sustainability. Although the construction costs of 11.5 million Swiss francs are high, they are balanced by the estimated annual potential savings of 1.5 million compared to present-day energy costs.

Towards new sustainability standards

However, the plan is to exploit Science City’s sustainability potential even further. Sixteen teams presented their ideas for this plan in an international competition. Three projects, whose representatives were also present at the media conference, were recommended by the jury for further development. They involved designs by students from Bern University of Applied Sciences, Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering, a team from the Institute for Sustainable Development of Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Winterthur, and a team of the three planning businesses Feld4, sa_partner and the Thomas Bürki GmbH Company. The last team, for example, put forward the idea of linking Science City to the Zurich West industrial district by a cable railway.

No matter how hazy some of the ideas may now seem, ETH Zurich plans to use the knowledge from the energy concept and competition in the next few years both in Science City and at its central location. Together with Yale University in the US, the University of Cambridge in England and the Australian National University in Canberra it is also starting to prepare an international Standard to define sustainable campuses for institutions of higher education. The kick-off conference to establish the network will take place from 25 - 27 April 2007.

To quote Walter Steinmann again, the overall result will be that Science City’s sustainability beacon will shine its light beyond Switzerland’s frontiers.

(1 Science City: (

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