There is a natural connection between sustainable design and historic preservation, one that is often overlooked. Building reuse and adaptation easily lend themselves to the ideals of green building, like lower embodied energy, longevity and cultural significance that promotes engaged users. In Essen, Germany, Architects from the Madako group have transformed an historic water tower into an imaginative space for living and working that showcases a fusion of old and new with lasting environmental considerations.

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In its initial form, the Umbau Wasserturm (converted water tower) in Essen-Bredeney stood untouched under Germany’s ‘Denkmalschutz’ and ’Landschaftschutzgebiet’ – historic building protection and culturally significant landscape protection. These two designations prevented demolition and maintained the water tower as part of the heritage landscape. The potential of the structure remained untapped until 2002. Then, with little alteration to the exterior, the water tower was transformed into an eight-story, multi-use building. The ground level space serves as an office and the lofty top level unit offers conference space with views of the surrounding natural landscape.

Three two-story apartments welcome the sun with open, flowing floor plans and high ceilings. Natural daylighting, thermal mass and convective cooling are inherent building technologies that translate to the structure’s new functions.

The embodied energy in existing materials has been diluted through an extension of the structure’s viability. Through reuse and adaptation the cost of demolition, trucking and land filling debris, the manufacturing, transport and installation of new structural materials has been eliminated. The result is a quiet lesson in “stealth green” – reuse brings both ecological and cultural advantages.

Madako Architects Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz Photos © copyright by ‘Denkmalschutz’ = monument protection ‘Landschaftschutzgebiet’ = landscape protection area