Behind the scenes of GS: precious stones

Since the laying of the foundation stone for the Synchrocyclotron in June 1954, CERN has been expanding constantly to reach a current constructed surface area of 580,000 m2 covered by some 650 buildings (just 125 of which account for 70% of this area).


This year, while CERN’s 60th anniversary is an important milestone in the Laboratory’s history, it also highlights another reality: CERN is a collection of ageing buildings, no less than 60% of which are more than 40 years old. “Of the 580,000 m2 of buildings, around 52,000 m2 are nearing the end of their useful life and 140,000 m2 are in need of extensive renovations,” says Natacha Lopez, GS-SE-PO Section Leader. “Of course, we’ve already started several renovation projects, but it's a huge challenge as we have to renovate buildings constructed in the 1960s and 70s while complying with modern standards, which are very different from those that were in force when they were built! As a result, we have to keep finding new ways to adapt our rules and modern techniques to suit our older infrastructure. That’s without even taking into account the differences in the requirements between Switzerland and France, which mean that the buildings on one side of the CERN site are different from those on the other side!”

Alongside its renovation, upkeep and maintenance activities, the GS-SE Group dedicates a large proportion of its resources to the construction of new buildings, including the eco-friendly Building 774, Building 107 and the ELENA building, which has just been inaugurated. “We're always receiving new building and extension requests,” explains Michael Poehler, GS-SE-DOP Section Leader. “They concern buildings that house accelerators, experiments and workshops as well as office buildings. That said, we are facing a growing problem because of a shortage of land suitable for building on, in particular on the Meyrin site.”

“We really expected the number of building requests to go down once the LHC had started running,” recalls Luigi Scibile, Group Leader of GS-SE, which is responsible for civil engineering at CERN, “but our activity has remained constant. This is largely down to the growing number of Users. The Organization is a living organism and its members are very active! This leads to new experiments being created, each of which needs a home.”

To sustain the fast pace of upkeep and maintenance work, renovations and numerous construction projects, the GS-SE Group relies on the expertise of 42 members of CERN personnel and almost 1,400 externally contracted professionals who work on the CERN worksites every day.

For more information about CERN’s sites and buildings, go to the Patrimony website.

by Anaïs Schaeffer