Energy efficient Bauhaus Building – Climate Protection in a World Cultural Heritage Site

  • Bauhaus Dessau Foundation presents a Bauhaus building optimised for energy efficiency – with a sustainable energy system as a key theme of the foundation’s work

With support from the German economic recovery plan (Konjunkturpaket II) in recent months the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation was able to implement comprehensive energy efficiency optimisation measures at its headquarters in the historic Bauhaus building in Dessau. Overall, the federal government allocated ca. € 3.9 million for the project. The aim of the project was to strike a balance between the conservation of the listed building as a World Cultural Heritage site and the requirements of long-term use – and, expressly, to optimise the building’s energy efficiency.

Over the course of the redevelopment of the Bauhaus building, the different sections and structural components, user behaviour and technological choices were surveyed in respect of savings that could be made, and aspects of its design and its conservation as a listed building were carefully considered.

This yielded a catalogue of measures, which links adjustments associated
with usage with innovative technological solutions. The measures listed
project total energy savings of over 30 per cent. At the same time, a greater emphasis could be placed on the listed building’s historic configuration and organisation of use. According to a survey by the Goethe Institute, overseas the Bauhaus building occupies seventh place on the list of most important monuments in Germany.

“There is”, states the director of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, “no better place to show by example how the world-famous classical modernism can be updated. In terms of building culture and technology, Germany is a global leader in the fields of energy efficiency and climate protection. Projects such as the renovation of the Bauhaus building show how present-day challenges may be met with state-of-the-art technology in premium-quality design”. 

The measures are based on a change in the building’s usage. The workrooms were concentrated in the north wing, where the majority of the structural
changes were also made. The workshop wing, which is so pivotal to the
building’s design, was opened up, thereby making it more accessible to the
public. This utilisation is seasonal and also permits greater variations in temperature, whereby the energy consumption may be reduced without
structural changes being made. Something similar applies to the annexe,
where the heating system was stripped down and the storage rooms brought to the right temperature using waste heat only.

Improving the energy efficiency of the building’s glass façades, which with their single-glazed windows and uninsulated steel profiles were responsible for most of the energy losses, presented a particular challenge. Large parts of the north wing and the studio building have meanwhile been fitted with new window elements, which are not only incomparably better insulated, but also come much closer in terms of design to the original windows of 1926. It was also possible to replace the opening mechanisms to reflect the historic situation. Work is to continue in future on other sections of the glass façades. The new windows are the result of collaboration between two specialised handicraft businesses from Switzerland and the Netherlands, which have used laser technology and a fibreglass-strengthened synthetic material to create thermally insulated profiles: together with the Swiss company Montanstahl GmbH the Dutch company MHB bv developed innovative steel profiles for the windows by hot rolling flat profiles. The Berlin-based architectural practice Winfried Brenne Architekten was responsible for the general concept, with the company Transsolar taking a supervisory role. Together, they came up with a new development in construction that has a model character for both the renovation of existing buildings and for new builds.

The roof of the Bauhaus building and that of its adjacent annexe were fitted with a photovoltaic installation. The frameless and especially flat modules form a unified surface, thus allowing low-visibility usage of the roof surfaces. Together, the two surfaces generate a feed-in revenue of €€16,400 per year.

With new pumps, insulated heating ducts and an intelligent control system
for the entire building, it was possible to dramatically reduce the heating energy requirements of the Bauhaus building without making changes to the building’s appearance. Through the installation of remote-controlled radiator regulators, which allow the programming of heating times in individual rooms in the building, the heating system could be adjusted to the usage-dependent variations in heating requirements. This means that structural changes to the listed building, for example for the adaptation of the historic line ducts to meet contemporary requirements or the relocation of control cables to the heating regulators, could be avoided.

The Foundation’s art depot, which opened in 2009 in the Alte Brauerei Dessau, has meanwhile been fitted with a solar district heating system installed by the building’s owner, Brauhaus Verein e.V. This includes a solar heating roof, a seasonal thermal storage system and two biomass
boilers, which will in future cool and heat the Foundation’s art depot using solar and bio energy. This technology is supported by the industrial
monument’s ideal passive air conditioning, whereby its 150 centimetre-thick walls ensure an extremely constant indoor climate.
“Improving the energy efficiency of the building not only provides solutions for pressing problems that we face in our everyday work – from high energy costs and an often uncomfortable indoor climate to the climate balance in the building”, states the Foundation’s director, Philip Oswalt. “For us, the programme also has a programmatic character in many respects: On the one hand it shows that, with innovative solutions, climate protection, good design and the conservation of listed buildings in a World Cultural Heritage site are thoroughly compatible – an approach that acts as a role model.

On the other, the energy turnaround and climate protection are issues that we engage with in our work. The necessary research and innovations are vital prerequisites for the shaping of our future, which we are not only exploring in the practical approach to the Bauhaus building, but also realising in education formats. The summer school “Energy Landscapes 3.0” dealt last year, for example, with the settlement structures of the future. In autumn 2012, we will be continuing this project at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. At the same time, we are working with the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) on scenarios for the future of Saxony-Anhalt: Could the Anhalt- Wittenberg region with its Solar Valley boost its profile as a centre for the energy avant-garde? Here, as with the updating of modernism, – in the Bauhaus building right now in practical terms, – climate protection will continue to be a key theme of our work”.
The improvement of the energy efficiency of the Bauhaus building in Dessau- Roßlau is ongoing. The next steps are described in a report commissioned by the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and compiled by Transsolar’s climate experts and Matthias Schuler. It was financed by the investment programme for national World Cultural Heritage sites 2009-2013.