Atlas | sustainable education building

Why Atlas is the most sustainable education building worldwide

On the campus of Eindhoven University of Technology Atlas has been renovated to the most sustainable education building in the world. This building, which has 16 floors, was built between 1959 and 1963 after a design by S.J. van Embden. It was quite outdated, not only in its furnishings and fittings, but also in its architectural and installation technology. Atlas proves that it is quite possible to renovate a large (41,500 m²) and outdated building sustainably to become a pleasant, comfortable and inspiring working and learning environment.  

The starting point in the renovation was to create the healthiest and most comfortable indoor environment possible for the users, while keeping the impact of the building and its use on the environment as low as possible. In order to succeed in this combination of sustainability and comfort, various innovative solutions were applied, including a smart high-tech façade, Smart Energysaving Lighting and connection to the central ATES system, all connected in the Building Management System.

- Smart façade

The new glass curtain wall is fitted with triple solar-control glazing with reflective interior fabric blinds. By means of state-of-the-art materials, such as a heat-reflecting coating on the windows as well as on the fabric, this ‘simple’ curtain wall matches the insulation value of a double-skin façade.

In this glass façade an unique window concept featuring PAF windows (parallel opening windows) is integrated, making maximum use of natural ventilation. As the windows open parallel to the façade, an increased air flow arises around the full circumference of the window, resulting in a highly efficient natural ventilation with less to no draught at all. Fresh air is sucked in via the bottom of the window, while warm, stale air is emitted via the top.

The windows may be opened individually within certain parameters, and are also linked to the building management system which automatically opens and closes the windows upon the occurrence of certain weather conditions. This also makes ‘night flushing’ possible: if necessary, the floor-to-ceiling windows slide out at night to cool the building and to purify the air, minimizing the need for mechanical ventilation.

- The SEL (Smart Energysaving Lighting) system.

The whole building is equipped with smart, energy-efficient LED lighting, that combines low energy consumption with excellent operability allowing every employee to set the LED lighting to his or her preference. Using presence detection and daylight-dependent fittings, each light fitting can, in principle, be individually adjusted and the environment optimally aligned to the needs of the user.

In addition, a choice has been made for a relatively low basic light intensity (100 lux). If a person is detected, the light intensity is increased to 300 lux. Subsequently the intensity can be adjusted as desired up to 500 lux through an app on your smartphone. When a person leaves the workplace, the connection with the smartphone is interrupted and the light intensity is reduced again.

This innovative lighting system can also be used for research into matters like Seasonal Affective Disorder. Since the SEL system is an open system, TU/e can in the future also make new, project-specific applications to collect data, to manage systems and influence the behavior of users, for instance by guiding users to vacant workplaces. As a Living Lab for research the building encourages new developments in innovative technologies and health.

  • Connection to the central ATES

TU/e has one of Europe’s largest geothermal energy installations (ATES). It is equipped with two rings; one for cold and one for heat. Buildings can use heat and cold at the same time, exchanged on the rings, independently of each other.

Atlas is the fifth building on the TU/e Campus that is not connected to gas since it is fully heated by the geothermal energy system that cools the buildings in the summer and heats them in the winter. The climate control installation responds to the wishes and presence or absence of the user. The decentralized rooms that can be individually adjusted are equipped with presence detection. Window contacts also switch off the climate installation (induction ceiling) when the window is opened while solar panels are able to supply most of the building’s energy consumption needs.


Text written by Sonja Rijlaarsdam, project leader Real Estate TU/e.
Heather picture taken by Bart van Overbeeke