TU/e needs to look for a new cleanroom

TU/e needs to repair the wide slab floors in the Spectrum building. The cleanroom in Spectrum has to be dismantled for this, which is why a new cleanroom will be necessary. At a first estimate, the Executive Board expects to need a maximum sum of 43.7 million euros for this project. The board expects to spend a total of 100 million euros extra on several different housing projects over the next three years. This amount is in addition to the 366 million euros budget set aside earlier for the Campus plan 2030. The Supervisory Board and the University Council have already agreed.

photo Bart van Overbeeke

Last year it became apparent that the floors of the Spectrum building, where TU/e’s cleanroom is located, need to be repaired. In May 2019, the government tightened up regulations for buildings with wide slab floors. These types of floors were used for both Flux and Spectrum. They led to much commotion in 2017, when part of a parking garage at Eindhoven Airport, for which wide slab floors were used, collapsed.

An investigation showed that the floors in Flux meet the new criteria, but that this wasn’t the case for the concrete construction of Spectrum. Jolie van Wevelingen, managing director of the departments of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering, said in October of last year that this didn’t mean that the building is unsafe, but that repairs are necessary in order to meet the new requirements. Those repair works were supposed to commence in early 2020.

Van Wevelingen: “According to the planning, repair works were indeed supposed to start in April. Much research has been done to determine how to go about this. If we want to do it right, we need to clear out the labs in Spectrum so that we can reach everything properly. Because of the impact of such an undertaking, we’ve consulted with Real Estate and the municipality of Eindhoven, among others, about how we can do this safely in combination with an earlier than planned renovation of Spectrum. It’s possible, under the condition that we keep monitoring the building’s condition as frequently as we do now. That’s once every two months, and the results are recorded in a report.”

Extra budget

The documents that were discussed during the University Council meeting on June 15 show that repair works of the floors and the renovation of Spectrum will commence no sooner than in late 2023. The costs of this project are estimated at 40 million euros. But that amount is separate from the 100 million euros the Executive Board asked the University Council to approve on Monday last week.

Those extra recourses are earmarked for housing projects planned for the period 2020-2023. These include, besides a new cleanroom, several projects that couldn’t be taken into account two years ago when the housing plan Campus 2030 was being drafted, according to the Executive Board. These projects relate to the necessary expansion of the original plan, or they are urgent and weren’t under consideration two years ago (new cleanroom). Or they are a consequence of TU/e’s rapid growth over the last years.

For example, extra money is needed for renovations of the Laplace building (5.4 million) and the Student Sports Center (3 million), for additional teaching and storage rooms at the departments of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics (10 million), for a new accommodation for the fire department (2.3 million), as well as for the labs at Biomedical Engineering (2.5 million). In addition, the university is required to carry out extra work on fire safety and climate installations in MetaForum, Vertigo and Flux (6.5 million).

Complex puzzle

But the cleanroom in Spectrum is the most urgent task. Director Van Wevelingen says that Real Estate is busy making plans for “a complex integral puzzle,” as she describes it. Where will the researchers of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering be relocated when the cleanroom is being dismantled? Gerrit Kroesen, dean of Applied Physics, points out that half of all research projects at his department and a large part of research conducted at Electrical Engineering can’t take place without a cleanroom. Kroesen: “A solution to this problem needs to be found soon.” Van Wevelingen says that at this point no concrete decision has been made about how best to approach this.

The Plasma & Materials Processing group of professor Erwin Kessels, scientific director of NanoLab@TU/e, relies heavily on the use of the cleanroom. “And that certainly doesn’t apply to our research group only,” Kessels says. He says that as a user, he doesn’t exactly have the expertise on how to carry out repair works to the floors while keeping the cleanroom operating. “That’s a matter for Real Estate, but naturally I’m involved with this process, if only because of our long-time experience with the existing cleanroom. Several scenarios are being looked at now. One of them is a step-by-step repair of the floors and the constant replacement of parts of the cleanroom. It’s still unclear whether that’s even possible, but it seems an expensive and time-consuming operation to me in any case.”

According to Kessels, the most ideal scenario would be to build a new building near Spectrum, which can accommodate a new cleanroom. “Spectrum can then be repaired and renovated, and extra space is always welcome, because the departments of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering hardly have enough space in Flux as it is.” The amount set aside by the Executive Board for a new cleanroom, 43.7 million, with which the current capacity will be expanded by fifty percent, is “realistic,” Kessels says.

CQT lab

And then there’s the issue of a new lab to be built for the Applied Physics research group Coherence and Quantum Technology. The completion of this lab seems to have a clear deadline. The lab is currently still located at the Cyclotron, but is has to move out of there in early 2023 because that’s when the rental agreement with the building’s owner, GE Health, expires. GE Health claims it needs the entire building and therefore indicated that it doesn’t wish to extend the agreement.

An attempt to locate the CQT lab at Gemini, the departmental building of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, which will also be fully renovated in the coming years, stranded at the beginning of this year. There wasn’t enough space to accommodate the lab, project leader Eric Heunen said in mid-February. 

There is no concrete plan available at this point for the CQT lab either. The Executive Board costed the project, including the expansion of the lab’s capacity with 45 percent, at 10 million euros maximum. In case that expansion is not realized, 7 million should suffice, according to the provisional first estimate.


Patrick van Brakel, chairman of the University Council committee that focuses on housing on campus, says that he was rather surprised by the amount of 100 million euros when his committee first saw the documents on May 11. He says it’s a “serious” amount, certainly when set against the total budget of 366 million for the complete housing plan Campus 2030. That figure, incidentally, has by now reached 372 million due to annual indexation. But in the end his committee, and consequently the entire University Council, accepted the Executive Board’s reasons for this extra scope for investments. The Supervisory Board had already agreed in April.

Vice-president Nicole Ummelen, Executive Board member responsible for housing, says that a sum of 100 million euros has now been set aside for a package of urgent projects. Ummelen: “That was done on the basis of estimates, these aren’t project budgets at this point, plus a margin. This means that the actual financial need could turn out lower. No decision has been made at this point about the realization of the projects. The minutiae and final realization of each project will be further developed in detail in the coming period. We make an individual decision on each project. That applies to the cleanroom as well: the substantive discussion and further development of this project still need to take place.”

Ummelen says that the housing ratio, the percentage of the budget spent annually on housing, won’t exceed the agreed upon limit of fourteen percent for the next three years because of this.

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