Controlling The Ultimate Renewable Resource
The “new” building of the Center for Science in Straubing, Germany was designed for sustainability. The center was founded in 2001 by the Federal State of Bavaria to concentrate “its competences in renewable resources,” and is a cooperative venture of several academic institutions including the Technische Universität München (TUM), the University of Applied Sciences Weihenstephan-Triesdorf (HSWT), the Deggendorf Institute of Technology, the Universität Regensburg, the Ostbayerische Technische Hochschule Regensburg, and the University of Applied Sciences Landshut. So it was virtually de rigeur that the building itself, designed in 2006 and completed in 2009, should reflect knowledge and leadership in sustainability, or more specifically renewable resources. The design, by Nickl + Partners, includes extensive use of wood both architecturally and structurally, for example.
Three sides of the façade are covered by an articulated white facade made of glass fiber composite panels. While FRP is not a standout example of a renewable resource, in this case it is being used to control the ultimate renewable resource, the Sun. The panels are a sunscreen that responds to conditions, and varies the amount of direct (vs filtered) sunlight that strikes the building envelope. This gives the building some measure of control over solar heat gain, reflecting away more sunshine in the summer and less in the winter, for example, or allowing more solar heating in the morning when the temperatures are just warming up, and less at midday when the sun is the hottest.
The facade is also architecturally quite distinctive. (The center’s website even mentions it as being very recognizable.) Its long thin rectangles echo the overall shape of the building, and suggest a combination of extreme regularity and flexibility.
This is not the only building to use FRP panels to control sunshine. The Al Bahr Towers in Abu Dhabi have a responsive sunscreen, very different in appearance but also distinctive.