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Building 60 renovations: one year on

As the Main Building enters the next phase of its renovation, find out what’s changed and why


Civil Engineering and Infrastructure
(Image: CERN)

CERN’s iconic Main Building, Building 60, has reached a crucial milestone in its two-and-a-half-year renovation, with the completion of the so-called remediation phase. The overall objectives have been to bring the building up to current regulatory standards following the strictest possible safety measures and to improve energy efficiency to the highest environmental standards, while preserving the building’s exceptional architectural value.

Building 60 in confinement for the duration of the first phase of the works
Building 60 in confinement for the duration of the first phase of the works. (Image: CERN)

Since summer 2023, Building 60 has been surrounded by scaffolding and confined for this remediation phase, involving the removal of mainly asbestos as well as several other pollutants. Planning had already started in 2021, with a specialist consultant assisting the SCE and HSE teams with analyses. Once Building 42 was prepared for the Management and other displaced teams, Building 60 was fully emptied and set up, with only structural elements kept as a foundation for the renovation.

A diagnosis of pollutants helped determine more precisely the type, location and quantities for removal, while the creation of a test site made it possible to better understand the design of the building and the distribution of pollutants, in particular flocked asbestos. The pollutant removal works also included disposal of the waste generated. Ethically, CERN’s priority was to ensure that the flocked asbestos waste would not go to landfill. A novel technology, called “inerting” (“inertage” or “vitrification” in French), was used instead, which involves incinerating the waste by plasma torching in a dedicated facility in France: the process transforms it into a glass-type material, which can be reused in the form of aggregates as a road underlay.

Civil Engineering and Infrastructure
Building 60 has been stripped bare on its path to improving energy efficiency. (Image: CERN)

Teams faced a range of challenges due to the building’s layout and accessibility, parallel works and activities, waste removal and inevitable timescale management issues, as well as heatwaves and heavy rain. Given that this project impacts so many people, the CERN community’s patience throughout has been highly appreciated. Mar Capeans, SCE Department Head, commended the efforts so far, saying: “It takes a brave team to make it possible: the Management, who agreed to spend half their mandate far from the tower, HSE and SCE who worked together closely from the preparation phase and throughout the execution, and the many teams and services, inside and outside CERN, who have made achieving this milestone with such excellent results possible.”

The next stage of the renovation and rehabilitation of the building now begins, so that by mid-2025 the Main Building will be restored to its former glory, freshened up, safe and compliant in all respects.