One of the best ways to learn about a topic is through hands-on experience - so if you want to learn about renewable energy and energy efficiency, you might consider heading to the Welios Science Center in Wels, Austria. Through over 150 hands-on exhibits, Austria's largest science center teaches both adults and children where their electricity comes from, how wind turbines and solar panels work, and much more. Welios was designed by Archinauten / Dworschak + Mühlbachler Zt-Gmbh Architekten, who describes it as a bundle of energy. Designed to high standards of energy efficiency itself and powered by solar systems, the museum and science center is educates by example as well.
The Welios Science Center is located in the Wels’ Volksgarten park, where it bridges the gap between the historic city center and the expo center. Conceived as a giant X, the project offers flexible exhibition spaces and a deep cleft in the center draws natural light inside. The exterior is clad in a shimmering white metal screen that is inlaid with zigzagging LED lights. These low-energy lights are computer-programmed to change colors, creating a dynamic facade. The science center opens directly into a public garden and the fairgrounds, which serve as an extension of the center for outdoor festivals and exhibits.
Students, children and adults can wander around the museum while engaging with the exhibits to learn about renewable energy and energy efficiency. They can also learn important lessons from the building itself, which was built to minimize energy use and generate some of its own power from the sun. Geothermal ground source heat pumps along with radiant floor heating provide low-energy climate control. High-performance insulation and an automatic control monitoring system further reduce energy use inside the building. The metal shade screen on the building’s facade allows some light to filter into the interior, but minimizes solar heat gain while serving as a rain screen and encouraging natural ventilation around the building.
Waterless urinals and toilets flushed with non-potable water minimize water usage. Meanwhile a 20 kW photovoltaic system is installed in the facade, in photovoltaic glass, and on the roof. This system supplies 15,000 kWh of electricity per year, which is enough to power three single-family homes. Hot water is produced by a 20 m² solar thermal plant, and a large evacuated tube solar collector provides solar district heating.
Images ©Dietmar Tolerian and Welios