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Groundbreaking science facility to be built in Sweden

Photo: cowi

​​​​Photo: ESS

​COWI has been chosen to do the detailed design for the European Spallation Source, ESS. It will be home for a groundbreaking research facility, a neutron source with the most powerful linear proton accelerator ever built.


On completion, the ESS, a highly advanced target building, will be able to welcome 2000-3000 scientists and researchers from all over the world every year. 

The multi-disciplinary research center will be based on the world’s most powerful neutron source, and the research can potentially lead to the next great inventions within pharmaceuticals, environmental technology, energy, cultural heritage or fundamental physics.

When producing the neutrons for research, ionising radiation will be generated, and to meet the safety requirements, the entire target building should be able to resist a potential earthquake occurring once in a 1 million years. This means that the walls of the target building will be up to 4 meters thick and the flooring equally heavy. 

COWI has been selected to be one of the leading engineering consultant companies at ESS due to a solid track record, and the engineers will draw on the experience from the design of the world’s largest bridges as well as concrete metro tunnels in seismic areas.

Setting the right team

Jacob Egede Andersen will lead the project and is presently gathering the team of experts for the job.

"We have to focus on project management and ensure that engineers from different departments together can draw on their experience from detailed design of record setting bridges in highly seismic areas as for instance California or Bosperus.  The concrete experts bring experience from Metro projects in Copenhagen, Athens and Doha, which will be combined with our knowledge of handling ionising radiation. This will come with the experts who worked on decommissioning of the nuclear facilities at Risø National Research Centre," says Jacob Egede Andersen, Market Director in COWI. 

More than an infrastructure project

The ESS is a complicated building design, and due to the ionising radiation, it must live up to very high safety requirements. Among other things, this means that there is a very fixed deadline on the constructions.

"We are honored to be selected to lead the detailed design for the target building in a facility of these dimensions. It is much more than an infrastructure project. Being the world's leading research facility using neutrons, it will make a difference to the world," says Jacob Egede Andersen.

The work was awarded by COWI's framework contract with ESS in October 2016 and will run until the first beam on target in 2019.

COWI in the ESS project:

Overall design responsible consultant


  • ESS is to be designed and constructed to ensure the machine is ready for the first beam on target in December 2019, "Beam on Dec 2019".
  • Design has to be verified for seismic loads with a return period of 1 million years due to ionising radiation being generated when the research facility is in operations.
  • The detailed design of the target building has to be completed by June 2017.
  • Up to 40 COWI staff will work with the detailed design, including staff from COWI offices in Malmö, London and San Francisco
  • The safety requirements of the facility will be regulated by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten).
  • The target building COWI design is 140 m by 100 m, approximately the same as a very large football stadium.
  • ESS is an ERIC – A European Research Infrastructure Consortium – with 15 member and observer countries.
  • Sweden & Denmark are hosts: 47,5% of construction, 15% of operations.
  • 2000-3000 visiting researchers per year when open to run 24-7
  • Construction cost of 1,84 B€
  • COWI Design fee 48 MSEK.
  • Operations cost of 140 M€ per year.


European Spallation Source

​The European Spallation Source (ESS) is a multi-disciplinary research facility based on what will be the world's most powerful neutron source.

The facility is being built in Lund, while the ESS Data Management and Software Centre (DMSC) is located in Copenhagen, Denmark. First neutrons are expected to be generated in 2019, with the user program planned to commence in 2023, and construction phase of the entire facility complete by 2025.

ESS is the world's next-generation neutron source, and will enable scientists to see and understand basic atomic structures and forces at length and time scales unachievable at other research facilities using neutrons.

The research facility is a European project with 15 participating countries and expected cost of 1,8 billion Euro. 35 % is paid by Sweden, 12,5 % by Denmark and the remains by the other member countries.

Construction of the buildings at the ESS site was initiated in September 2014  and  will end 2019. Once in operations, ESS will have around 500 employees and a yearly operations budget around 140 MEUR.

The European Spallation Source ERIC is a joint European organisation committed to constructing and operating the world's leading facility for research using neutrons. 

Source: ESS

LAST UPDATED: 30.09.2017