In light of ever-increasing student numbers, combined with the need for more education space, the new interfaculty building for TU Delft is designed to meet the Dutch university’s need for flexible extra teaching space – now and in the future.
Echo is an energy-generating interfaculty building that offers a wide variety of teaching rooms to cater for the diversity of teaching methods and study styles at the university.
As the most sustainable building at the TU Delft, Echo is contributing to the university’s ambitions to operate a fully sustainable campus by 2030.
UNStudio co-founder Ben van Berkel said the Echo building taught by example.
He added: “In this highly compact building, the use of space is maximised, while bringing students from different disciplines in closer contact.
“Not only can they condense their learning experience and learn from each other, but they can also learn from the building itself.”
UNStudio, in collaboration with Arup and BBN, created a design for Echo that fully supports different educational typologies and teaching methods with an energy-generating building in which adaptability and the wellbeing of the user are central.
Van Berkel continued: “Unlike traditional campuses that operate in silos, the future campus needs to be programmed with agile spaces that invite students and faculty to learn, collaborate and co-create.
“As student numbers continue to grow, educational buildings need to be extremely flexible, to operate through a model based on shared interfaculty use that can promote a more generalist education.”
A healthy campus building – for people and planet
There are 1200 solar panels, smart installations, good insulation and a heat and cold storage system to ensure that Echo will be able to provide more energy than it requires for its daily operations.
This includes user-related energy, such as electricity consumption for laptops, lighting and catering.
Ninety per cent of the furniture used in the building has also been reused.
Transparency was essential to the design of Echo, not only ensuring maximum daylight inside the building (known to have health benefits for the users, but also reducing the need for artificial lighting), but also creating a visual connection to the wider campus and to surrounding nature.
As such, a closed-in, ‘institutional’ experience for the users is avoided, while the open and public character of the building connects the two sides of the campus and provides a bright, uplifting and welcoming environment for faculty and students alike.
However, to avoid heat gain, it is also essential to prevent excess sunlight penetration.
Overheating of the building is prevented by a combination of sun protection and the low solar penetration factor of the glass.
In addition, the deep horizontal aluminium awnings keep out excess solar heat.
These canopies are interconnected by cables along which climbing plants form a subtle green facade that filters daylight.
To ensure clean air in the building, a plenum floor is installed above hollow-core slabs.
Here fresh air is pumped up from the floor, rather than down from above, thus avoiding circulation around the room.
The vents for this system, along with the computer floor installation, can easily be relocated, should the layouts of the rooms change in the future.
Not only has a great deal of attention been paid to the environmental impact of the materials used in the construction, but the building has been designed as much as possible according to principles of circularity.
Using large portal constructions with large grid sizes, the columns run along the edge of the building, creating column-free spaces with large spans.
The steel trusses have standard sizes and can be dismantled so that they can be reused elsewhere after the lifespan of the building.
The hollow-core slabs can also be reused in the future.
A building that stimulates movement and collaboration
Echo is an education building with multifunctional spaces that transcends current learning environments.
The design supports the contemporary culture of ‘Everything Anywhere’, where the in-between spaces are also of great importance and physical movement is stimulated.
Echo therefore also provides space for unstructured time: a variety of platforms for reflection, inspiration and communication.
The interior offers a warm welcome to visitors – at specific positions, bamboo ribs extend along the ceiling, forming an integral part of the design.
The crafted look and feel of the bamboo is extended around the central staircase, that in one gesture joins the study and cooperation spaces into one connected world of learning, collaboration and connection.
This centrally positioned ‘grand stair’ facilitates and promotes physical movement through the building and thus contributes to the health of students, researchers and teachers alike.
A future-proof campus is an active campus – that is why Echo not only connects with the surrounding public space, it also defines it.
The adjacent square continues through the transparent ground floor of the building and connects with the street on the other side, turning the ground floor of Echo into a covered public square and a public connector that makes the invisible world of learning a visible and engaging experience.
A similar movable wall system is used in the mixed didactic space on the first level, so that this can be divided into two classrooms of 144 places each when required.
The more than 300 study spaces throughout the building can be used for group work and self-study.