In February 2013, the Parliament of the Canton of Zurich approved 195 million Swiss francs for the fifth construction phase at the University of Zurich’s Irchel Campus (UZI 5), where new laboratory buildings for the Department of Chemistry are being built. The costs were determined based on experience from the first four phases at UZH-Irchel Campus, non-binding bids, and a comparison with similar buildings belonging to ETH Zurich. A cost cap was determined, and the project was subsequently developed step-by-step.
As the project progressed, it became clear that the high demands of the chemistry domain in terms of laboratory space made it necessary for the technological installations to be expanded. This is why the Government Council of the Canton of Zurich has applied for a new loan of 55.4 million Swiss francs from the Parliament of the Canton of Zurich to be used for an expansion project, as announced today.
If the loan is approved within the first quarter of 2018, the additional measures can be put into effect immediately after the ongoing construction work has been completed. The expansion project will only add half a year to the overall building phase, which means that the buildings can become operational in mid-2021 as planned. If implementation is delayed, this would result in significant additional costs.
President Hengartner, why is this loan needed for the chemistry building, which is currently being built?
Michael Hengartner: The project has seen significant changes since the special-purpose loan was approved in 2013. The needs of UZH were defined more closely, and it became clear that the high demands of the chemistry domain in terms of laboratory space make an expansion of the technological installations necessary. In addition, the number of students studying chemistry and biology at UZH increased by 40 percent over the past years. These developments were not yet taken into account in the previous cost cap.
What additional facilities are planned?
Michael Hengartner: The additional project includes the following construction measures, in particular: An additional laboratory floor, expanded additional laboratory space, and a separate building for the laboratory for high-pressure experiments. The floor area will be increased by 4,100 square meters, and the main usable area by 6,500 square meters. This way, we can meet the needs that come with the increased number of students. At the same time, additional space is created that will be needed when the older buildings at Irchel Campus are restored.
What is the significance of this additional expansion for the chemistry domain and for UZH?
Michael Hengartner: There’s no way to avoid expanding the UZI 5 project to satisfy the high demand for highly specialized laboratory space for our researchers and students of chemistry. It’s a matter of ensuring the international competitiveness of the University’s cutting-edge research and of Zurich as a research hub. Chemistry has a long tradition at UZH. Four of our twelve Nobel laureates are chemists. Back when the University was founded in 1833, the first professorial chair for chemistry was created and a study program for chemistry was introduced. Findings from the field of chemistry are fundamental for many areas, such as nutrition, health, or developing new materials. And of course, many other disciplines build on findings from chemistry, including biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, human and veterinary medicine, and food, environmental or earth sciences.
In concrete terms, in what ways will chemistry at UZH benefit from the new buildings?
Michael Hengartner: The individual areas of chemistry, which have been formally merged since 2014 but are still separated in terms of space, will be housed under the same roof. This building will enable the various chemistry research groups to use the same laboratory installations together. The modular laboratory expansion should also make it possible to use the infrastructure flexibly according to the specific needs of research projects. The space on offer will be geared towards research needs, not the other way round. The UZI 5 project has major implications for the future – and is of crucial importance for the future of UZH.
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