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Sustainable ambition NIOO-KNAW

The Request from NIOO-KNAW: Develop intelligent climate chambers in line with our sustainability aims

The Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) needed thirteen climate chambers for its new building in Wageningen. They had to be not only high tech and meet the academic needs, but also to be sustainable. EQUANS surpassed every expectation. "I never felt that we had asked the impossible."

Researchers use the NIOO-KNAW climate chambers to study the effect of changing conditions on plants, animals and microorganisms. And therefore what is happening in the natural world.

Gregor Disveld:

"For example, the effect of global warming on plants", says Gregor Disveld, who as phytotron manager bears responsibility for the NIOO-KNAW climate chambers. "We were not only looking for cultivation facilities, but also for climate chambers to store material, including fungal preparations and soil from the field."

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Light conditions

"Because we are dealing here with scientific research, the conditions in the climate chambers must be completely traceable. This places high demands on the research conditions. For instance with respect to the stability of the light conditions. The lamps radiate considerable heat and need to be cooled. But this has to be done uniformly, so that the temperature in the entire chamber remains the same."

The organisation wanted more than an academically satisfactory product. As an ecological institute, NIOO-KNAW attaches great value to sustainability. For instance, the building is as energy neutral as possible and an important principle is the reuse of resources and materials. One of the aims was to reuse as much of the heat as possible that is released when performing research. Therefore, EQUANS designed the climate chambers so that the water used to cool the cooling compressors is used to heat the building.

Sustainability ambitions

"However, we did not have a very clear picture of the technology that is required for the climate chambers", says Disveld. "We therefore looked for a party that could help us realise our ambitions in the area of academic dependability and sustainability."

EQUANS quickly stood out. "We saw that EQUANS had constructed technically intelligent climate chambers at the University of Amsterdam. For instance, by positioning the pumps on the outside, so that you do not need to enter the climate chambers to perform maintenance. The result is that there is no risk of disturbing the research."

Log in from home

The question was whether EQUANS would also be able to meet all of Wageningen's wishes. "The EQUANS team listened to our questions and thought with us to establish exactly what we needed. Their ideas were clear. The climate conditions in the chambers were regulated without additional costs. We never felt that we had asked the impossible."

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For instance, EQUANS installed a monitoring and control system to which the phytotron manager can log in, also from home. "We can control many things ourselves: light intensity, temperature and air humidity. The box containing the measuring instruments hangs in the middle of the climate chamber, instead of in the corner. This means that we can measure the air humidity and the temperature in the heart of the chamber, at the location where the research is conducted." 

But there is more. "Here we can imitate a situation of unobstructed daylight as well as shadowy conditions. In the first case, the light contains a relatively large amount of red light, in the second case a large amount of far-red light. The fact we can achieve this using LEDs is in line with our environmental philosophy. Our climate chambers are truly innovative."