The iconic high-rise building of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science has been closed for the last two weeks. Dean Lucas van Vliet took the decision to close the building after an investigation showed that the building could not be guaranteed fire safe. It appeared that the steel construction beams could not resist high temperatures long enough. The few staff members and students who were still using the building under the corona restrictions, had to leave it.
Everything was arranged for them in the weeks that followed. Given the exceptional circumstances, the students who had still been coming to the Faculty were given space in the teaching building on the Drebbelweg. Other students, those graduating for example, can also meet their teachers there if necessary.
From this week on, staff members can sign up to remove their things from the building. Flexible office space for staff members who cannot work from home has been found in the building on the Van Mourik Broekmanweg, which EEMCS’ DIAM (Applied Mathematics) department had just vacated. Some laboratories, laboratory courses and special set-ups for online teaching have moved to EEMCS’ low-rise building.
Reduce fire hazard
Van Vliet is happy with all the help that he has been offered time from his own Faculty and from outside. Still, he does not accept all the offers as he does not want to lose the connections within his Faculty. It is also more efficient and manageable to cluster the labs, he says.
‘How could this have happened?’
Furthermore, staff have managed to reduce the fire hazard on the floors that had not yet been treated for fire resistance. This entailed the removal of as many flammable objects as possible, the disconnection of equipment and pantries put out of use. Van Vliet says that this means that “if there really is no alternative, fixed research equipment that cannot be moved can be used under strict conditions.”
Need to come to campus
In the meantime, a tight recovery plan has been put together. “Everything was already about to be rolled out as we were undergoing renovations. We have speeded this up.” A contractor will start working on the fire resistance of the ground floor and the first and second floors on Monday 8 March. These will be open again at the start of the new academic year. Floors three to eight had already been renovated and the plan is now to reopen them on 1 June. The same goes for the five large lecture halls in the extension behind the high-rise. Floors nine and upwards will be renovated three at a time after the work on the lower floors is finished.
Van Vliet explains that the work has been arranged to allow the contractor to work as quickly as possible so that the students can come back to the building as quickly as possible. “Imagine corona restrictions are relexed and that students can come back to campus at some point, I do not want to have to say that EEMCS students may not return. They need to come to campus and we recognise their needs.”
The situation in the high-rise seems to be under control. Does the Dean believe this too? “We are currently putting off the things that are not extremely urgent, but the staff and I have a lot of questions. We need to find out why we did not know about the fire hazard of the construction beams earlier. How could this have happened? We will definitely look into this.”