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Sustainable construction: The new building of the Modellfabrik Papier

Der Entwurf des neuen Forschungsgebäudes der Modellfabrik Papier mit Blick auf den Versorgungshof und die seitliche Promenade.
MFP News
22.04.2024

The Modellfabrik Papiers new building is still a blue print. Though once completed in 2026, it will be the first pioneering building in new Düren innovation quarter. Antonino Vultaggio and Stephan Kauert, both senior partners at HPP architects, presented the design at the 7th Museum Dialogue and explained how it contributes to the sustainability goals in construction.

Its façade is striking. „It resembles a piece of paper that has been folded several times, hinting at what the building is all about,” says architect Antonino Vultaggio, senior partner at HPP.  What the research complex, consisting of a two-storey technical centre and a laboratory and office building, does not reveal on first sight: the planning and construction set new standards in sustainable construction.

Talking about climate protection, most people think of the energy transition or the transport sectors. However, the biggest consumer of raw materials worldwide is the construction industry. It produces 40 percent of global CO2 emissions and the largest single producer of waste and hazardous waste globally. “We still think of construction in a linear way from design to construction to demolition,“ says Vultaggio. Simply reciting the same old approaches over and over again will not create better solutions for the problems of our time. In view of growing cities and the increasing demand for living space, office and commercial buildings, architecture today must no longer think in a one-dimensional way. „Buildings must create added value.“

Circular instead of linear

This is the guiding principle behind the design and planning of the building complex, which has a gross floor area of around 6,500 square metres. The buildings structure is not intended to consume building materials, but to use them for a limited period of time. “We think of a building as a raw materials depot. We therefore plan from the outset so that as much as possible of what is used in the construction can be separated and reused later on – as easily as possible,” explains Vultaggio.

The technical centre and laboratory and office building will realised as a hybrid mass-timber construction. By choosing certified timber as the primary building material, the design not only relies on climate-friendly building materials, but also on durability and circularity. The timber structure works with prefabricated elements that can be easily dismantled and reused with low energy consumption. All materials are inserted and screwed together, single-origin and non-toxic – and therefore may be more easily returned to the material cycle at the end of lifetime. In addition, the use of prefabricated elements shortens the construction time.

Modular and future-oriented

The architectural language of forms not only clearly refers to the theme of paper, but also creates stability – just like a folded sheet of paper. Thus the technical centre is a column-free space that, similar to an exhibition hall, offers all the liberties needed to set up, modify and dismantle research stations and test stands as required for research. Materials and equipment can be lifted from the storage area on the lower level an openhatch using a hydraulic crane and transported across the hall.

The design also allows for core building zones in the roof to be modularly extended for future technical installations such as ventilation shafts. By this the architecture meets a central requirement of the Modellfabrik Papier: the most versatile use of the technical centre in the long term – depending on how the research work will change over the years. The module design also has economic advantages, explains general planner Stephan Kauert, senior partner at HPP. If changing user requirements are taken into account early on in the planning process, future conversions or extensions can be implemented flexibly – and are less costly.

Climate-active and energy-efficient

The folding of the facade provides another benefit. Because the windows in the folds of the building are aligned to the north, the amount of energy entering the building is reduced. Less direct sunlight prevents the building from heating up. The greening of the façades and roof areas also contributes to the cooling of the building. Climbing plants on the façade provide shade. Partly extensive, partly intensive green spaces on the roofs allow rainwater to evaporate. Green roofs and rainwater management based on the sponge city principle ensure a good microclimate in the neighbourhood and help to reduce the urban heat island effect. In addition, the green areas help to compensate for sealed surfaces and promote biodiversity in urban areas.

„Sustainable architectur calls for holistic planning, aiming to maximise positive impacts rather than trying to minimize negative effects.“ Antonino Vultaggio, HPP Architekten

The buildings energy concept also provides for a connection to the planned cold local heating network of the new city quarter. Heat pumps will efficiently generate the required temperature level in the building and at the same time transfer excess heat to neighboring buildings in the district. Electricity we be produced by solar power on the roof top.

A showcase for research

The aesthetic functionality of the building also creates socio-cultural added value. The building material wood ensures a healthy working environment with a high quality of stay. The room design enables modern working and new work concepts. It is also possible to use part of the office space for third parties, for example for young companies from the bioeconomy and green tech scene, which would benefit dialogue and knowledge transfer thereby contributing to the innovative character of the citys new quarter. With the open design and a small exhibition area, the building showcases what is happening inside, promoting interaction and community dialogue.

Building for tomorrow

With the design, the HPP architectural firm was able to win the EU-wide tender for the construction project in 2021. Numerous examples such as the Cradle-to-Cradle building in Düsseldorf or the New Medical Clinic of the University Hospital Tübingen show what is already possible in circular construction today.

With their sustainability concept, the architects aim to achieve platinum certification from the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB). Once granted, the building will meet one of the highest German building standards. The overall performance of a building is assessed on the basis of a list of criteria that was comprehensively revised for new buildings in 2023. In addition to the three sustainability dimensions of ecology, economy and social responsibility, the building technology, process and location quality are also examined.

“Sustainable construction calls for a change of perspective and generate added value.”

Currently, the Modellfabrik Papier is operating from its interim location at the Jülich Research Center. The new building is expected to be ready to move into in about two years. The construction project is closely linked to the development of the citys new innovation quarter which is part of the structural change in the Rhenish mining area. It is lead by the Wirtschaftsförderung Düren WIN.DN, the economic development agency of Düren, along with the city of Düren. It is being funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection and co-financed by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The museum dialog can be viewed in German on the Düren Paper Museum’s YouTube-channel.

The next event in the series will take place on November 14, 2024.

Header (c) HPP, Plans (c) HPP Architekten/WIN-DN

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Feel free to contact us if you would like to find out more about Modellfabrik Papier, our tasks and our projects.

Discover more news

FOREST – Designing a digital twin for the paper in...
23.05.2024
Milestone for Modellfabrik Papier's new research b...
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New members join the scientific advisory board
30.04.2024
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Do you have any questions?

Feel free to contact us if you would like to find out more about Modellfabrik Papier, our tasks and our projects.

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