It has been four months since the construction of Zhejiang Lab’s new campus started on May 9, 2019 in the central area of the West Hangzhou Scientific Innovation Corridor. How has the construction progressed? What kinds of high-tech laboratories and intelligent humanized design will be put into this campus to serve tens of thousands of science professionals in the future? What are the unknown stories behind the construction of this 100-hectare campus? Read on to find out the answers.
Powerful Research Facility Support Provided by Scientific Design and Full Participation
According to the construction plan, the first phase covers a site area of 43 hectares with a floor area of about 610,000 square meters. In particular, the western part of the land is used for various research institutes (specialized laboratories) and facilities such as large scientific apparatus and innovation platforms. As the campus is designed to include several advanced laboratories, the construction has been incorporating scientists’ research visions, aiming to turn their ideas into real-life research facilities and innovation platforms.
In the field of intelligent perception alone, there will be a laboratory for quantum precision measurement, a basic R&D platform for intelligent sensors, and several other laboratory facilities such as anechoic chambers, optical darkrooms, and cleanrooms on the new campus. In particular, to build the Laboratory for Quantum Precision Measurement, the construction team must dig down more than ten meters, so that the laboratory can reach an anti-vibration level of VG-E to meet the requirements for the limit measurement of multiple physical quantities such as extremely weak magnetic fields and ultra-high sensitive inertia. “Any vibration can affect the measurement apparatus’ optical system. Even a very slight vibration will lead to measurement errors and influence the results of experiments,” said Associate Professor Zhai Yueyang from the Research Center for Quantum Sensing at Zhejiang Lab.
Based on the needs of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch perception, the Basic R&D Platform for Intelligent Sensors will be equipped with a group of precision facilities such as electron microscopes, thin film deposition facilities, microelectronic printing facilities, and chromatography-mass spectrometers, providing a fundamental laboratory environment for R&D projects in areas such as advanced nano materials, printable electronics, biochemical sensing, wearable technologies, and biomimetic sensing. “This is an interdisciplinary and versatile R&D platform that will fully enhance the performance of advanced sensors in terms of mechanisms, materials, and devices. It can therefore facilitate the development of other fields such as advanced robots, intelligent manufacturing, health care, and environmental monitoring,” said Doctor Jiang Chengpeng, a researcher from the Research Center for Super-Perception at Zhejiang Lab.
It is worth mentioning that the new campus will invest more than one billion CNY to build a big data center and thus create the most powerful information infrastructure for research activities related to artificial intelligence and network information. Other research facilities such as a new generation of ICS (industrial control system) apparatus, the Industrial Internet cyberwar ranges, and micro-nano processing platforms will also be installed on the new campus.
“We engaged in the overall design of every laboratory, including early investigations and visits, the selection of instruments and equipment, and the design of technological processes. The task was complicated and difficult, but it turned us into science professionals capable of planning the construction of R&D platforms. Before that, we only knew how to use laboratory devices. So the experience is very rewarding,” said Doctor Lü Bihu, a researcher from the Research Center for Super-Perception at Zhejiang Lab.
A Model for Future Cities Created by Humanized Design and AI Technologies
With a primary goal to serve scientists, the new campus will be built as a world-class basic research center and an intelligent, green, low-carbon model for future cities, expecting to attract scientists from all over the world to carry out their research at Zhejiang Lab.
The design and planning of the campus fully reflects the humanistic concept of putting people at the center. There will be more than 3,000 apartments for different needs, including special residential communities for senior scientists, researcher apartments, and short-term rentals. In addition, these apartments will be supported with complete living facilities such as schools, hospitals, and commercial facilities, making it more convenient and flexible for full-time and short-term researchers to work and live on the campus. With an emphasis on natural elements and interpersonal communication, the landscape of the campus is designed to integrate the features of landmark Hangzhou landscapes such as the Xixi Wetland, the Bamboo-lined Path at Yunqi, and the Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard, so that scientists can enjoy the beauty of Hangzhou without leaving the campus. Focusing on community building, outdoor spaces of the campus, such as sinking courtyards and various sports venues, will provide scientists with abundant choices for recreation, as well as opportunities for academic communication, idea sharing, and integrated innovation.
Apart from Chinese aesthetic concepts that emphasize magnificence, elegance, simplicity, and natural landscapes, the design of the campus also integrates the ideal of intelligence. Through meticulous design, the campus will realize timely, interactive, and integrated information perception, transmission, and processing. 22 intelligent technologies such as intelligent security, intelligent illumination, smart parking, smart energy saving, and intelligent meetings will be utilized on the new campus. In addition, some current research projects for technologies such as intelligent low-altitude manned aircraft and unmanned autonomous driving are expected to make breakthroughs on the campus.
“As a novel research institution focusing on artificial intelligence, we strongly hope that our research outcomes can be applied to the construction of the new campus, making it a model and an experimental field for future cities,” said Zhang Lingjian, Deputy Chief from the Information Center of Zhejiang Lab.
A Campus Formed by Fantastic Ideas and Real-world Effort
To plan and construct the campus of a research institution is not as simple as building an ordinary office building. “When you want to build a first-class laboratory, you will face difficulties that are hard to imagine. From conception to completion, the whole process requires us to work together and overcome all kinds of difficulties,” Niu Yulan, Head of Infrastructure Management from the Department of Facility Support, explained, “it was only after rounds of discussion and justification that we came up with the current design for the big data center. As the center will be installed with nearly 4,000 cabinets, such a large-scale project will certainly encounter many new obstacles during the construction process. However, we have to do it no matter how hard it can be, walking towards our goals one step at a time.”
Before construction started, Zhejiang Lab’s infrastructure team made extensive investigations, including visits to universities and institutions such as the Chinese National Institute of Metrology, the CAS (Chinese Academy of Sciences) Suzhou Institute of Nano-Tech and Nano-Bionics, and the Shanghai Tech University, as well as to the R&D parks of companies such as Huawei, Tencent, Alibaba, and Hikvision. “Although we can learn from others’ experience, there are still many difficulties and challenges for us to address during the construction of our new campus. For some special laboratories, we need to think in advance about issues such as anti-microvibration, special gas pipelines, the treatment of hazardous materials, and special power rooms. These complex and professional issues require us to closely collaborate with researchers, designers, and the construction teams,” said Niu.
In addition, in order to reduce design defects, avoid re-construction, and improve construction quality, the overall construction of the campus follows a whole-process BIM execution plan, using information technologies and digital models to visualize, coordinate, simulate, and optimize the construction process. Therefore, problems that might take place during construction can be solved in advance during the design process. Meanwhile, the use of BIM ensures simpler information management for the entire process of the project from design and construction to operation.
The first phase of the campus is scheduled to be put into service by the end of 2020. The infrastructure office is working hard to ensure timely progress of the project, and the construction team is also working around the clock. According to Ma Zheng, a project manager from the Zhejiang Construction Engineering Group, they are about to finish laying pile foundations and have already begun to construct the frame structures of the lab’s main building and the Research Institute of Future Networks. The overall structure of the entire project is expected to be completed before the Spring Festival of 2020.