Press release from the State of Fribourg on 18th October 2017
Cantonal Council to submit proposal to Cantonal Parliament for total budget allocation of CHF 25 million for construction of the building of the Smart Living Lab at blueFACTORY.
The Smart Living Lab is a research and development center dedicated to intelligent housing of the future. It is currently located in the Blue Hall pending construction of the building where it will be definitively housed. In the meantime, it has been experiencing significant growth. In order to avoid jeopardizing its future development, the Cantonal Council has approved a 1000 m2 extension of the initial project for this experimental building and allocated an additional budget allocation of CHF 5 million for this purpose. The proposed budget has thus been increased from the initial CHF 20 million to CHF 25 million. At the same time, BFF SA's Board of Directors is re-prioritizing the various on-site projects in order to optimize its financial plan. A study has shown that reallocation of the old bottling hall (Gray Hall) is not economically feasible at the moment. This project has therefore been suspended in order to move forward with construction of Building B, which would stand adjacent to the building where the Smart Living Lab is currently located.
Smart Living Lab
As a research and development facility devoted to intelligent housing of the future, the Smart Living Lab is one of the spearheads of the Swiss Innovation Park and what makes the blueFACTORY unique. In particular, this technology platform combines the expertise of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL, Fribourg campus), the Fribourg School of Engineering and Architecture (HEIA-FR) and the University of Fribourg (UNI-FR). It is here that the Swiss pavilion, NeighborHub, which has just won the 2017 Solar Decathlon in Denver, was designed and built.
Currently located in the Blue Hall, the Smart Living Lab already has 60 employees (48 in 2015), including 19 employees from EPFL, 13 from UNIFR and 28 from HEIA-FR. At this rate, the research and development center will reach the maximum stipulated occupancy of the new building by 2023 (i.e. 89 workplaces).
In order not to hinder in the medium and long term the dynamics of a national and international reference center for intelligent housing of the future, the Smart Living Lab's management and its academic partners have proposed to the joint steering committee to expand the future building by 1,000 m2 (+25%). This would increase capacity to a maximum occupancy of 130 workplaces (+45%).
The Cantonal Council has expressed its support for expansion of this smart living building, which will offer a gross floor area of 5,000 m2 to its 130 researchers (50% EPFL; 50% HEIA-FR and UNIFR). The Cantonal Council has therefore agreed to increase its contribution by CHF 5 million (from CHF 20 million to CHF 25 million) in order to expand construction of the experimental building for intelligent housing of the future.
Gray Hall and Building B
At the same time, BFF SA's Board of Directors is re-prioritizing the various on-site projects in order to optimize its financial plan.
A parallel studies mandate (PSM) was commissioned by BFF SA to examine reallocation of the former bottling hall (Gray Hall) and its economic potential. The preliminary design showed that reallocation of the hall is not economically feasible in the short term, since the estimated cost is between CHF 26 and 30 million for 4,500 m2 of usable floor space. The Board of Directors therefore decided to analyze the desirability of a transitional solution for use of this building.
Instead, BFF SA intends to accelerate construction of Building B, which lies adjacent to the Smart Living Lab. The additional rental space could then be made available to companies wishing to establish themselves on the blueFACTORY site, and more specifically to work closely with the Smart Living Lab.
Building B and the smart living building could thus be delivered by the end of 2021. However, the timetable depends on final approval of the Cantonal Allocation Plan (CAP), which is currently expected for the first half of 2018 (enquiry process launched on 24 November 2017), as well as on the degree of integration of the two buildings.
The public expenditure on the blueFACTORY site, both for the container and in support of the various technology platforms, already amount to some CHF 78.8 million.
This figure includes purchase of the site in equal parts by the Canton of Fribourg and the Town of Fribourg (CHF 24 million); a non-repayable contribution from BFF SA of CHF 1 million (split equally between the Canton of Fribourg and the Town of Fribourg); a loan repayable to BFF SA of 10 million francs (split equally between the Canton of Fribourg and the Town of Fribourg); guarantees and loans from the Canton of Fribourg amounting to CHF 15.6 million for the SICHH platform (CHF 12 million) and BCC platform (CHF 3.6 million) as well as a non-repayable contribution from the Canton of Fribourg for the Innosquare platform (CHF 2 million) and for the Smart Living Lab (CHF 26.2 million).
In addition to these amounts, the Canton of Fribourg will also provide CHF 25 million for construction of the Smart Living Lab building. This amount and the building’s operating expenses will be subject to additional analysis to be provided to the Cantonal Council for approval, followed by a decree and a Cantonal Council Dispatch to be submitted to the Cantonal Parliament for approval.
As part of the Smart Living Lab R&D facility, funding will be provided for professorships at the EPFL, UNI-FR and HEIA-FR. This will result in an annual cost of approximately CHF 7 million for the Canton of Fribourg, an amount that has already been included in the financial plan.