A dynamic new icon of sustainable energy is rising in Heidelberg, Germany. Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA) just broke ground on a new energy storage tower for Stadtwerke Heidelberg (SWH) that will be the Heidelberg’s tallest building and symbolize the city’s transition towards renewables. Designed to replace an existing gas tank, the new tower will be wrapped in a dynamic multi-layered facade made up of “energy loops” to render renewable energy visible to the public.
The 56-meter-tall energy storage center with 19,500-cubic-meter capacity will be accompanied with a 10,000-square-meter park, both of which are slated for completion in mid-2019. Solar and wind energy will be harnessed and used to heat up the water and sold as heat energy.
“This ‘knowledge store’ will replace a previous gas tank, a symbol of energy policy in the 1950s,” said Tobias Wallisser, director of LAVA. “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.”
The renovated tower is made up of a multi-layered facade with a spiral helix staircase that wraps around an insulating inner layer of mineral wool panels painted varying shades of blue. A cable network fitted between the annular supports creates the outer facade. Around 11,000 diamond-shaped stainless steel plates—the same number of households supplied with energy by the network—also clad the structure and can rotate up to 45 degrees horizontally in the wind. At night, the tower’s inner envelope is illuminated by LEDs that glow blue, green, and white that signify the filling up or emptying of the water storage tank. The publicly accessible tower features two elevators and roof-level event spaces, bistro, and viewing terraces.