SwissTech Convention Center (STCC) opened Apr. 3 as one of the most modern and best-equipped conference centers in the world.
Funded by two Credit Suisse real estate funds, the building and the Northern Quarter in which it stands were planned and carried out by HRS Real Estate SA according to plans by the architectural firm Richter Dahl Rocha & Associés SA in Lausanne.
In a world first, a solar photovoltaic facade composed of “Grätzel cells” has been installed with the support of Romande Energie.
“Research in the 21st century is essentially collaborative. The SwissTech Convention Center is a world-class tool for the exchange of knowledge through which our school can make critical contributions to solving major societal challenges,” explained André Schneider, vice president of planning and logistics, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.
He said he wants the new EPFL Convention Center to be far more than one of the most modern in the world.
“As one of the few convention centers in Europe to be established on a university campus, it will also serve as smart conferencing lab – a place to experiment with the most innovative technologies for improving the flow of ideas in scientific conferences and making these exchanges more fruitful,” he added.
STCC offers delegates the best in technical equipment. It is characterized in particular by extreme modularity. Its large auditorium can be automatically transformed, at will, from a 3,000-seat amphitheater to a banquet hall of more than 1800 square meters, thanks to the Canadian technology, “Gala Systems,” which ensures the metamorphosis in about 15 minutes. Multiple intermediate configurations offer event organizers unsurpassed flexibility. The ground floor offers the possibility of countless workroom configurations across an area of nearly 1500 square meters.
As evidence that it meets a clear demand not only from scientists but also many businesses, as well as local and international institutions, the center is already almost completely booked through its first year of operation.
“The interest of the business world is also of prime importance to us because that will lead to greater technology transfer,” added Schneider.
Novel equipment and architecture
In addition to multimedia art facilities in each of its rooms, STCC is also equipped with smart displays whose content automatically adapts depending on location. These same screens can communicate with the mobile phones of participants in events, for example, by sending them papers for discussion.
STCC also uses several pioneering technologies. It is based primarily on posts, some of which operate simultaneously as geothermal heat pumps. Packed with sensors, they are developing this technology to save large amounts of energy. One of its facades is also covered with 300 square meters of transparent and colored photovoltaic solar collectors, which are based on the principle developed by EPFL professor Michael Grätzel. Financed entirely by Romande Energie, this innovative solar installation is a world first for a public building and a new realization in the partnership between EPFL and Romande Energie to develop a large-scale solar power plant and conduct research and development. The chromatic organization of the panels is the work of artist Catherine Bolle of Lausanne.
An innovative financing model
The financing of STCC is also pioneering. As part of a public-private partnership, two real estate funds, Credit Suisse Real Estate Fund LivingPlus (CS REF LivingPlus) and Credit Suisse Real Estate Fund Hospitality (CS REF Hospitality) assumed the entirety of the business contract – to the tune of 225 million Swiss francs. This amount also includes the construction of the Northern Quarter, a complex that brings together businesses, services, 516 student dorm rooms and the SwissTech Hotel, which adds to the Starling Hotel to complete the accommodations on offer in the campus’ immediate vicinity. EPFL is the sole tenant of the buildings, constructed on a plot that belongs to the Swiss Confederation with surface rights granted for a period of 99 years. The HRS Real Estate SA company completely handled the planning and implementation of the entire quarter.
The inauguration of the SwissTech Convention Center is followed by a weekend of “open houses” from Apr. 5-6. Inhabitants of the area are invited to discover the world of research at EPFL through the theme of “Science & Illusions.”