Grave concern about Kruyt building plans

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The redevelopment of the Kruyt building is part of the new corporate real estate strategy the university announced earlier this week. Researchers who work in the building received an invitation to an information meeting last week. This meeting is to take place on Thursday morning. The email already implied that the university had decided to renovate the outdated Kruyt building.

The message led to “grave concerns” and “heavy objections” amongst researchers working in the building. The intent is to have the large-scale renovation take place while in other parts of the building, scientific experiments continue. The Kruyt building residents doubt whether that’s possible. Noise and vibrations could, for instance, could be disastrous for microscopic observations.

Damage to research
“The idea of living in a construction site for eight to ten years is rather daunting to many,” says biologist Mike Boxem. “Everyone thinks this will lead to unacceptable disturbance and will influence experiments.”

Boxem also wonders what the construction work will mean for the competitiveness of the fast-growing UU faculty of Science. The Science faculty will most likely be in a position to hire many new researchers. “But who’d want to come to a building that’ll be under major construction for years?”

On behalf of the Young Investigators Forum, a group of young UU life sciences researchers, chairman Boxem has since sent a letter to the faculty board to voice their concerns.

The biology professors have formally informed the Executive Board that they’re very unhappy with the decision. Professor Sander van den Heuvel fears “a lot of frustration” and “disruption of experiments”. “It’s very easy to say the inconvenience will be limited, but how realistic is that?”

Van den Heuvel is more supportive of previous plans that included two new buildings for the Science faculty: one next to the De Wied building and one in the north-western corner. “I hope there’s still room to think about selling the Kruyt building to a third party. And if not, perhaps creating a temporary space elsewhere to house the faculty.”

It did not come as a surprise to the Kruyt residents that the UU was thinking about not demolishing the Kruyt building – as had been the plan for a long time. Shortly before summer, an announcement had already been made that the demolition plans for the Kruyt building were on hold depending the outcome of test results. These tests were meant to see whether renovation was possible while the building remained in use. Boxem and Van den Heuvel state the results of these tests, however, were very clear: “People who were there, hated it.”

Renovation is possible
Faculty director Klaas Druijf says he shares the Kruyt residents’ worry about the inconvenience, but he does think redevelopment while the building is in use is possible. He says the tests also included worst case scenarios in order to be able to take the best possible measures to reduce noise nuisance. “But the concerns are justified. Reducing the noise and nuisance as much as possible won’t be free either. We’ll have to do a lot for that.”

Druijf says the Executive Board has had to decide between the disadvantages of redeveloping the Kruyt building (nuisance) and the benefits (more sustainable, possibly cost saving, and more opportunity for growth). “We’re growing fast; that’s what society demands, too. It’s easier for us to keep growing in the Kruyt building than it would’ve been in the buildings that were planned.”

Druijf acknowledges that long-term, large-scale construction work might deter potential new employees and top-notch researchers. “But the reputation of our UU biologists is fantastic and thankfully doesn’t only depend on the building. And we’ll be able to say that we’re creating amazing new labs in the Kruyt building. The picture that’s being painted by some people doesn’t match the planning of the construction work. It is possible to renovate within five years with limited nuisance, with a maximum of eight years if literally everything is met with a stroke of bad luck.”

The meeting on Thursday morning in the Kruyt building starts at 9 am, and will be held on the first floor (Dutch/UK, so second floor for American English speakers). President Anton Pijpers and the department o