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Jülich 2050: A campus with a future

What will the Jülich campus look like 40 years from now? In any case, it will be energy-efficient and future-oriented, a location for research, for working, and for living. To this end, Forschungszentrum Jülich has developed the Urban Development Master Plan 2050.

As a first step, architects and project planners, supported by external experts for sustainable construction, documented the current condition of the buildings at Forschungszentrum Jülich, which has grown organically over a period of 50 years on a campus covering an area of 2.2 km2.

The second step involved an assessment of the requirements of the institutes: How many offices and laboratories do they need for their research? What developments are expected in the next few years, both in terms of the number of employees and the institutes’ need for space, as well as special research infrastructures? What campus structure would be beneficial?

The data collected in the analysis of the status quo and the requirements of the individual institutes are both part of the overall analysis, which takes into account sustainability criteria defined by the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) and the Federal Assessment System for Sustainable Building (BNB). In addition to environmental and economic aspects, these criteria also comprise sociocultural and functional factors, the technical quality of buildings and infrastructures, as well as aspects related to the transformation process, such as the participation of employees and quality management.

So what might the campus look like in 2050? Current plans envisage a long-term transformation of the campus that will eventually concentrate the institutes in groups situated at the centre of the campus in a green zone with limited access for vehicles, and place certain infrastructure facilities in peripheral locations in the forest. Traffic could be restricted to one ring road leading to car parks with a clear layout. Current drafts provide for a reconversion of concrete-covered areas between buildings into green spaces in order to increase the value of the actual work environment and optimize the micro-climate around the buildings. To compensate for somewhat isolated location in a forest, additional facilities could be located in the centre of the new campus to enable employees to get important day-to-day tasks done without the need to leave the campus. In particular, facilities outside of normal working times will be improved, as well as local public transport connections.

The urban development master plan will be implemented in several stages: by 2016, 2020, 2030, and finally 2050. It will also be adapted to the current situation at regular intervals of about three years. Any pending modernization measures and construction projects will be integrated into the overall concept; the architects hope to avoid any provisional arrangements such as temporary buildings, and therefore the need for offices, laboratories and workshops to move buildings several times. Even today, it is necessary to construct modular buildings so that they remain flexible in their use, and to choose façade components that can be changed as required as well as recyclable materials. And last but not least, it is important to keep the energy balance of buildings as neutral as possible throughout their entire life cycle.

Eco certificate for laboratories at Jülich

In parallel to its work on the urban development master plan, Forschungszentrum Jülich is seeking certification for sustainable planning in the scientific area.

The Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS) is currently developing and testing a dedicated assessment and certification system for research and laboratory buildings in Germany. Its aim is to introduce uniform standards that serve as a benchmark for sustainability and are financially feasible for institutions funded by the federal government – after all, sustainable options are often more expensive than conventional alternatives in the construction phase, although they save money throughout their entire life cycle. Forschungszentrum Jülich is participating in the pilot phase of this project with two buildings that will be scrutinized with a view to sustainability criteria. For example, requirements on these buildings include assessing their entire life cycle during the planning phase, and taking alternative uses and future expansions into consideration from the very beginning. This has been the case, for example, with the new technical facility for photovoltaics research and the new building for plasma physics at Forschungszentrum Jülich.

Energy efficiency under scrutiny

Energy efficiency plays a central part in sustainable development, in Jülich and elsewhere. In its more than 50 years of existence, the campus has grown organically. Of the buildings on the campus of Forschungszentrum Jülich, 60 % are more than 40 years old, and 80 % of the technical installations in buildings have far exceeded their life cycle. The necessary modernization of the infrastructure, which sees intensive use, affords an opportunity to break the mould and implement the results of our research on our own campus to test their practical application, for example in the area of energy research.

According to the German federal government’s energy concept, about 60 % of our energy demand should be met with renewables by 2050. For the Jülich science campus, which is involved in energy research itself, this objective is a challenge, because many of its buildings require modernization, and the scientific infrastructure, which comprises top-class large-scale facilities, causes a considerable share of its energy demand. Smarter energy supply and consumption require new concepts.

In cooperation with RWTH Aachen University, Jülich experts analyse the heat requirements of buildings on campus, which vary strongly depending on whether they accommodate laboratories or offices or both. In buildings with lecture theatres, for example, their use and capacity also play a role, because each person provides additional ‘heating’ through their own body heat.

Different types of existing buildings are also analysed in terms of their requirements over the course of a day. To this end, Forschungszentrum Jülich sends its data to the Chair of Energy Efficient Buildings and Indoor Climate at RWTH Aachen University. With a software that is being developed there as part of a research project for the simulation of heat supply networks, the scientists are planning a detailed, time-resolved model of Jülich’s heat supply. Instead of an average value of heat consumption, the program will map the entire heat requirements of different types of buildings and their fluctuations over the course of a day. The advantage is that the findings can be used to simulate the entire supply network to develop the most effective route for operation management. Peak loads could be covered using intelligent controls, so that the grid capacity could be lowered and existing grids could perform better. However, heat supply is not the only issue for Forschungszentrum Jülich’s technical infrastructure: cooling also plays an important role. For example, water from the Rur is used to cool a number of processes at Forschungszentrum Jülich and then fed back into the river via the lake on campus, a procedure that is subject to strict regulations. Other, comparable approaches are also conceivable.

A few measures can be implemented immediately, and some have already been realized. For example, new buildings meet energy efficiency standards, and part of the energy they require is generated by solar panels on their roofs. All street lamps on campus have been retrofitted with LEDs, which has cut energy consumption for this purpose by more than 50 % and CO2 emissions by 146 tonnes per year. The new lamps have the additional advantage that because they generate less heat, they do not pose a threat to insects.


Mobility plays an important role for energy efficiency on the campus, which accommodates about 5,000 employees. Forschungszentrum Jülich encourages its employees to use public transport, form car pools, or cycle to work. With this in mind, local public transport connections will be improved further, which will benefit both employees and visitors. At the moment, Forschungszentrum Jülich is again considering the possibility of offering employer-subsidized ‘job tickets’ in cooperation with the regional associations of transport companies. A dedicated platform for car pools can be found on the intranet. The campus itself is bike-friendly and was recently equipped with cycle lanes as well as new bike stands. A gate for cyclists is open all day for those who want to take the short route to the town of Jülich.

Groups of visitors can also discover the campus by bike, on a tour that presents priority areas of energy and climate research in the institutes, such as photovoltaics research, atmospheric research, and climate research. However, the tour also stops at other locations on campus where sustainable ideas are already being put into practice.

Electric scooters are available to those colleagues at Technical Infrastructure who travel more than 20 kilometres on campus every day and need to move quickly between buildings. At the moment, these scooters can be recharged at standard power sockets. However, it is also planned to install dedicated charge points for electric vehicles.