The guideline recommended by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) stipulates that buildings must conform to the standards laid down in the Building Code 2012, a law that stipulates, inter alia, how much fresh air per square metre must be supplied by the ventilation system. For this reason, the university subjected all its buildings to an examination, to make sure that they still meet the requirements.

According to Marijke Weustink, the university’s Director of Real Estate & Facilities, the Tinbergen and G Buildings do technically meet all the requirements, ‘if you read the small print’. “You see, according to the Building Code 2012, older buildings are only required to meet the standards laid down in the Building Code 2003 (which were lower – ed.). But we didn’t want to shirk our responsibilities like that. Judged by the 2012 ventilation standards, the G building is unfit for classroom teaching.” The building is so old that investing in a better ventilation system does not make much sense. However, Weustink says that this is not much of a problem at present, since the demand for classrooms does not outweigh the supply. “But it is sad that we now have to close study spaces in the G Building.”

Reduced capacity

The situation in the Tinbergen Building is slightly different. “There, too, the ventilation issue cannot be resolved simply by pressing a few buttons,” says Weustink. However, the investment to be made now is not a short-term solution, and in the Tinbergen Building, too, there is not a tremendous demand for classrooms. “Although we’ve heard from lecturers that the classrooms there are highly suited for the streaming of lectures. So we’ve made a few classrooms in the Tinbergen Building available for that.”

In the Erasmus Building, which, other than the Auditorium, mostly houses offices, some rooms do not conform to the standards laid down in the Building Code either. “Thankfully, we won’t have to close any rooms there. We will have to reduce the capacity of some rooms, though – say, from eight employees to six employees.”

Most buildings have proper ventilation

However, as Weustink said back in September, the fact that the buildings meet the standards of the Building Code does not mean that the buildings are safe from a coronavirus point of view. The RIVM is said to have been working on a guideline, but so far, this has yet to be released, meaning that the standards outlined in the Building Code are the only guideline to go by. “Where our current situation differs from last September is that we now have practical confirmation – rather than just an assurance on a piece of paper – that we have proper ventilation in most of our buildings.”

Even so, the RIVM recommends that windows and doors be opened every time after a classroom is used. “Some places will become a little colder. There is no denying that. My daughters are struggling with that in their secondary school, as well.” The examination also involved a look at whether the ventilation and indoor climate would remain OK in the event that temperatures dropped outside. In the Van der Goot Building, for example, they remained in order in the entire building at a temperature of -6°C, and in certain rooms they remained OK until a temperature of -10°C. Weustink is not aware of ventilation and indoor climate deteriorating in the event of lower temperatures in

Study spots in town

In order to make up for the loss of the study spaces in the G and Tinbergen Buildings, the university is in talks with the Municipality of Rotterdam. “At least one party is interested in helping out with that. We’ll be able to tell you more about that soon. As for in-class exams, we’re talking to Ahoy (major conference centre – ed.) again, but obviously, that is quite an expensive solution.”