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Nikhef colleagues move back to renovated building

"Fantastic that we can fully take into use the renovated Nikhef building"

A new entrance, sustainable glazing and window frames, large skylights, an updated mechanical workplace and a beautiful atrium at the heart of the building where people can meet each other. The renovated NWO Institute Nikhef is scarcely recognisable after a thorough renovation that took 2.5 years. Nikhef colleagues were all eager to return to the completely renovated building at the Amsterdam Science Park.
On Thursday, 26 October 2023, the official completion contract was signed by Institute manager Arjen van Rijn and the project leader on behalf of the contractor SPIE, Arjan Arentse. With that, they gave the start sign for the building to be taken back into use again and for setting in motion the move back to Nikhef.

Temporary accommodation

At the coffee machine in the temporary Nikhef location opposite fellow Institute AMOLF, the move is a hot topic of conversation. There, we briefly also met the head of P&O at Nikhef, Pieter van Braam van Vloten, who, with his department, has been working in the temporary unit from the beginning of the renovation onwards. He says that he misses the connection with everybody due to the distance and he is therefore looking forward to moving back again. "I regularly check the progress. Formally, the building is off-limits for employees. You really do have to report to the building site and you are given a helmet and a jacket before you are allowed inside."
Martijn van Calmthout, head of Communication at Nikhef, also has an office with his team in the temporary unit. He is one of the people responsible for the internal communication about the move. "The removal boxes of Team Communication have already been packed. However, not everybody is ready to move yet. A lot still needs to happen in the coming days. I'm glad that we are moving back again. You really do feel that you are further away from the institute here. It is far nicer to work together in a single building."

Renovation and tour of Nikhef

On 31 May 2021, Nikhef handed over the building to construction team partner SPIE. Then the renovation began. In terms of installations, appearance and functionality, the aim was to create a building that does justice to the groundbreaking research that takes place there.
"Our building dates from 1978 and it desperately needed a thorough renovation", explains relocation coordinator/head of Executive Secretariat Eveline Schram. Together with Martijn, she proudly leads the editorial team of NWO-I around the recently commissioned Nikhef building.

This week, the contractor and his team will carry out the finishing touches. Eveline shows the newly constructed atrium, called Vertex (in physics, that is the collision point in a particle accelerator: the place where everything comes together), which will be the central meeting place at Nikhef. A modern seating area on the stairs looks out on a podium and offers possibilities to organise personnel meetings or a colloquium. New skylights above this give the space a lot of light and a fresh appearance.
"Besides an outdoor terrace for holding small informal gatherings, we also have a show lab to demonstrate experiments and there is a large library with a reading room", adds Eveline. Martijn shows the space that has been made available in the Vertex room for an 'Expo strip' that will be installed at the start of 2024. "We have commissioned a stand builder and designer who will ensure that four islands will be made in the form of an educative and interactive exhibition. This will include spheres from the Nikhef experiment KM3NeT and a cross-section from the particle accelerator at CERN."

Eveline and Martijn also show us the office units, which have been completely renovated with new floors, freshly plastered walls, sustainable glass and plastic window frames and new furniture. On the walls, new sound-damping panels have been placed that are embossed with Nikhef images of experiments carried out by the department concerned. The central stairway has also received an entirely new look and feel with improved lighting and, on each floor, an 'anchor place' with a meeting room and kitchen unit. "Soon there will also be comfortable seating to create the atmosphere of a living room", says Eveline.

The move

In just over a week, everybody must have moved to the renovated building. Martijn: "Fortunately, everybody from the N wing had already moved back during a previous phase, including the Department of Mechanical Technology (the advanced workplaces where people work on the instrumentation required for experiments). There, an enormous number of renovations were carried out too, such as a new mechanical ventilation system". The focus during the last part of the move, the H wing, now includes the support departments. "And also the theoretical physicists", adds Eveline. "They will move back first because they were located the furthest away from other colleagues due to being accommodated at our opposite neighbour CWI."

Finish in sight

Nikhef instituted a strict planning with respect to the renovation but it could not control everything. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the completion took place six months later than planned. In the coming week, Nikhef employees will celebrate the completion with cakes during the regular 'coffee and biscuit moment'. And in December, the Nikhef Christmas dinner will be held for the first time in the Vertex. Martijn: "We are pleased that we have now met this delivery deadline. Not only for the employees but also for the site visit in the context of the SEP evaluation (Strategy Evaluation Protocol) that will take place from 20 to 22 November. We really wanted to show our institute in the renovated building to the SEP committee because it is our new business card.’ Institute manager Arjen is very relieved about being able to take the building into use. "It took a long time and a few things are still not finished. However, it is fantastic that we can all once again return to our own building and make full use of the new Nikhef facility."

[Nikhef news release 26 October 2023]
Renovation Nikhef building at Amsterdam Science Park nears completion
Last Thursday, after a renovation that took 2.5 years, contactor SPIE formally handed over the Nikhef building to the NWO Institute for subatomic physics.
Read the entire news item on the Nikhef website.

Visit the Nikhef website for more information.

Text: Melissa Vianen

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