Germany Builds Revolutionary Water Tank for Energy Storage

Germany’s public works department, Stadtwerke Heidelberg (SWH), has broken ground on a modern and revolutionary energy storage centre in Heidelberg.

According to LAVA, the architectural firm responsible for the new energy storage centre’s design, the end result for the project will be a giant water tank, based off an old gas tank that once reflected Germany’s energy policy in the 1950s.

The storage centre will provide information on sustainable power and renewable resources. Solar and wind energy generated on site will be used to heat up the water inside the tower to produce heat energy – which will then be sold.

“LAVA’s design will transform the new water tank, a cylindrical-shaped storage centre, into a dynamic sculpture, a city icon, a knowledge hub on sustainable energy, fully accessible to the public, a strong symbol of the transition towards renewables,” LAVA Director Tobias Wallisser said.

“Formally and geometrically the new water tank will not be much different from its predecessor. So this raised the challenge for us: How can the parameters of energy regeneration, decentrality, networking, flexibility and adaptivity be made visible in the design of the outer shell?

“How can an adaptive, dynamic system be produced without extreme technical control? Our task was to transform a big heavy industrial tank into a dynamic object,” Wallisser said.

The transformation of the tank involves a multi-layered facade structure inspired by the geometries of nature. An inner shell, an insulating layer of mineral wool panels of different shades of blue, wraps the building. A spiral helix staircase positioned around the cylinder continues the “energy loops” circling the structure rising dramatically up the facade to the top.

A cable network arranged between the annular supports forms the outer façade layer and gives depth and a varied, dynamic appearance. Approximately 11,000 diamond-shaped plates of stainless steel are hooked with an ingenious connection to this steel network, allowing them to rotate horizontally up to 45 degrees in the wind.

“This number of plates matches the number of households supplied with energy by the network,” Wallisser said.

This dynamic envelope glimmers in sunlight, while gentle waves of light and motion glide across the surface. The complex interplay of movement, light and shadow is generated by sun and wind, with no additional energy or complicated technology required. At night, the inner envelope is illuminated dynamically by low-energy LED luminaries in blue, green and white, mounted below the stairs.

This colour play also signals the filling up or emptying of the water storage tank, making clearly visible the processes inside the tower.

Two elevators take visitors to the roof-level event spaces, bistro and terraces offering panoramic views.

It was also important to bring all the elements of the site into one coherent plan.

LAVA chose differently sized annular elements in different orientations, differently inclined ‘energy loops’, which continue from the park landscape to the façade of the store. And every element is multifunctional – the park becomes a three-dimensional structure, the energy storage becomes a view and experience space, escape stairs are vertical knowledge promenades, and elevators are a journey with a view of the city.

“As the tallest building in Heidelberg it will render the move towards renewable energy visible to the public. It will be a showcase of LAVA’s philosophy ‘more with less’ and our first major project aligned with renewable energy to be built,” Wallisser said.

“We teamed up with some of the best engineers for the project, Schlaich Bergermann for structure (responsible for sports stadia around the globe and the famous 1972 Munich Olympic Venue); Transsolar for climate engineering; and WHITEvoid for the kinetic façade (known for their light wall installation for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall).”

The project was shortlisted for “Future Infrastructure Projects” at the World Architecture Festival 2017.

SWH operates an extensive regional heating network and is building the new heating storage Tower and Park due for completion by mid 2019.

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