15 January 2010 18:18 [Source: ICB]
Bayer MaterialScience shows what can be done with its own buildings
ON A cool morning last November, visitors convened at the unveiling of a new day care center in Monheim, in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany - the latest addition to Bayer MaterialScience's EcoCommercial Building (ECB) portfolio.
The first ECB zero-emission building of its kind, the kindergarten sets a benchmark for energy efficiency and showcases modern materials and technologies. Completely self sufficient, it needs no external energy supplies and emits no carbon dioxide (CO2). On an annual average, the building is completely independent from the grid, says Thomas Braig, head of the ECB Program in the Europe, Middle East, Africa region.
The €2.5m ($3.6m) kindergarten was built in only eight months and is now used by some 60 children belonging to employees at the adjacent Bayer CropScience offices. With the amount of energy needed 40% below German passive house standards, it has already won plaudits and was awarded the Energy-optimized Building 2009 prize by the German Federal Ministry of Economics.
"With the kindergarten, we wanted to achieve zero emissions, while at the same time fulfilling modern architectural design and economic needs," says Braig. "This means that optimizing single elements like a window or just thicker wall insulation will not produce the result. The decisive step forward is a holistic approach for optimization, by making the intelligent connection between the disciplines. All installations in this building are the result of an integrated planning process."
First impressions are striking. Visitors entering the 1,000m2 (10,800 square foot) low-lying structure walk into a deceptively large lobby area surrounded by classrooms and play areas. High ceilings and carefully positioned windows help to create a bright and open environment.
By combining renewable technologies with a well-insulated building envelope, considerable efficiency gains can be achieved, says Braig.
Most ecological components are hidden from view but provide significant cost and energy savings.
The entire day care center is based on a wood-framework construction - the prefabricated paneling housing a polyurethane (PU) core made of raw materials by Bayer MaterialScience. The excellent PU thermal insulation properties not only minimize heat loss, but allow the walls to be thinner, maximizing internal space. The windows, floors and roof are equally well insulated, he says.
"An ecological building requires a building envelope that is well thermally insulated and therefore minimizes the energy demand for heating and cooling in the building," adds Braig.
Discreet ceiling-mounted lighting panels supplement the natural light that enters the building to provide a bright and welcoming environment for the children. Artificial lighting costs are kept to a minimum, thanks to sensors that monitor and adjust the settings, as required.
The environmental credentials of the center are further accentuated by the decision to harness geothermal energy - using the biggest heat reservoir available, the earth beneath the building. Heat is trapped in the ground and controlled to maintain a comfortable temperature inside.
Finally, roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) modules soak up the sun's rays and provide 70% of the building's energy requirements.
"Our EcoCommercial Buildings may cost more in the beginning but they are worth it in the long run," says Braig. "We assume that the life of an average building is around 30-50 years. So in the case of our kindergarten, the ecological investment is amortized after only eight years. That means costs savings for more than two thirds of its lifetime, which is a competitive advantage for both the investor and the operator of the buildings."
Three bespoke buildings have so far been funded, each in a different climate and having different functions, showing that the concept is adaptable to different requirements, and each having an expected pay-back of less than a decade.
To date, the company has launched ECB Centers of Excellence in Western Europe, Thailand, China, Japan, North America and the Middle East - effectively hubs staffed by specialist teams dedicated to sustainable construction, pursuing future projects and possible partners.
A few months before the kindergarten was completed, Bayer opened new administration offices in Diegem, Belgium - a sustainable and low-energy building that also incorporates renewable energy and consumes only half the energy of comparable structures. For this project, Bayer was the recipient of the Belgian award for architecture and energy.
The 13,000m² building is now home to 250 employees, and boasts energy savings 40% better than the Belgian standard - one of the most stringent standards in Europe, adds Braig.
It took 17 months to plan and build, and features equally innovative energy saving measures. PU insulation reduces CO2 emissions by around 300 tonnes/year - equivalent to 110,000 liters (29,000 gal) of heating oil.
Elsewhere, light emitting diodes provide low-energy lighting with a long life span, and are used in the outdoor media display. The fittings are protected by Bayer's Makrolon polycarbonate (PC).
As well as capitalizing on geothermal energy just like the kindergarten, the offices also make use of captured rainwater, meaning that designers have been able to cut water consumption by 40-50% compared with a typical building.
A third project is currently under construction in Greater Noida, near New Delhi, in India. The Bayer innovation and demonstration center is powered entirely by PV cells and is another example of a zero-emission building.
The 1,200m2 facility is scheduled for completion in mid-2010 and aims to use 70% less energy than other local office buildings constructed to Indian standards.
Further Bayer projects are planned in the Middle East and China. The company is also looking at whether its ECB initiative can be applied to third-party refurbishment and retrofit projects.
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