Hönggerberg campus development finds approval

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Implementation of the -ETH Campus Hönggerberg 2040- vision has taken a major step forward. Zurich’s municipal council approved the outlines of the plans for the future campus development with few changes.

ETH Zurich plans to develop its campus of the future on the Hönggerberg. (Photo: ETH Zurich / Alessandro Della Bella)
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ETH Zurich has launched plans to build its campus of the future at the Hönggerberg location. Little now stands in the way of moving forward. On Wednesday evening, the Zurich municipal council approved the legal framework for the planning of the slated campus development. In its decision, the City Parliament lauded the outlines of the planned development that envision densification within the current campus grounds and emphasise vertical development rather than horizontal expansion of campus buildings. This, they noted, would preserve the surrounding landscape and recreational area. Open and green spaces will also be upgraded.

Praise for the plans

The underlying -ETH Campus Hönggerberg 2040- masterplan describes the longer-term spatial development goal. Over the coming 20 years, this will allow ETH Zurich to optimise the Hönggerberg location and fulfil its duty to educate Switzerland’s future professionals, carry out cutting edge international research and ensure the transfer of knowledge into the economy and society in step with changing demands.

The council lauded the masterplan as a fitting response to complex requirements and emphasised that it was keen to avoid placing hurdles or obstacles in the path of ETH and its development, noting that every franc invested in the university yielded a five-fold benefit to the society. And that, ultimately, would also benefit Zurich’s economy.

In particular, the City Parliament agreed to a partial revision of the building and zone regulations (BZO) as well as the special building regulations for the Hönggerberg campus of ETH. The regulations provide the framework conditions for future uses, construction, green spaces and traffic access. They also enable a densification of the current building stock by 50%.

Climate protection changes

In the special building regulations, the municipal council made a few changes to the current climate protection policy, calling for ETH to ensure the quality of its buildings not only in terms of urban planning and architectural aspects but also environmental ones. Further changes addressed energy, the local climate, light emissions and drainage and water retention, with the aim of making the Hönggerberg campus fossil-free in the coming decades.

This means that whenever energy supply systems are replaced, the new systems must be operated without fossil fuels. Moreover, heat reduction measures must be implemented to prevent excessive heating of the surroundings by buildings, facilities and open spaces. The changes also call for avoiding unnecessary light emissions in open spaces and - as rainfall can be expected to rise by 13% due to climatic changes according to a council vote - for the uncontaminated precipitation to be channelled into the groundwater through infiltration and retention areas.

Some of the agreed changes, especially regarding the local climate and light emissions, are not specific to ETH but will be applied by the City of Zurich to special building regulations and urban planning scenarios. These climate protection measures will aid ETH Zurich in its implementation of the federal energyand CO2-reduction targets as well as those of the university itself, and ETH has the instruments (masterplan lighting, comprehensive drainage concept, Anergy Grid) to fulfil these requirements in the individual construction projects.

A model for future masterplans

The municipal council also lauded ETH Zurich’s sustainability strategy, noting its convincing approach to the four elements of teaching, research, implementation on the campus and dialogue with the society. The -ETH Campus Hönggerberg 2040- masterplan, it continued, could be used as a template for future masterplans, special building regulations and urban planning in Zurich.

-The assent of the municipal council is an amazing vote of confidence. This will allow us to sustainably develop and maintain the campus and provide the room for manoeuvre that our university so urgently needs. ETH Zurich will do everything in its power to continue to be worthy of the trust placed in us,- says Ulrich Weidmann, Vice President for Infrastructure, with a view to the growing number of students and researchers and the associated space requirements.

The approval of the municipal council brings the roughly five-year process in which ETH Zurich, the City of Zurich and the Canton of Zurich jointly developed new planning principles (Masterplan 2040, the cantonal structure plan, City of Zurich building and zone regulations, special building regulations) closer to its conclusion. Optional referenda could still be initiated against the building and zone regulations and special building regulations, but this appears unlikely at the present time. If there is no referendum, the two planning regulations will go to the canton for approval with a subsequent appeal deadline.

Florian Meyer