Green Building 2013 – Prague

I arrived… finally, but the less said about that the better!

Having checked in to the Lindner Hotel, Prague Castle – a very pleasant hotel set high up on the hill on the grounds on the monastery – I quite literally dumped my bags and headed straight out with nothing but my camera and my wallet…

The photographic results were varied, but one thing is for sure – this city is beautiful and probably best experienced with a partner. Either way there’s no denying that it becomes more beautiful and dramatic as darkness falls – a really great place for honing your night photography… If only I had my tripod.


Conference Day

Breakfast at 7am and in a taxi by 7:45am, just to make sure I don’t miss anything (again!)…

OK few arrival observations to start with…No one has iPads, there’s no event twitter hash tag, no tweet wall. This is not normal for me! No social media coverage at all in fact…

Also, you need to get the basics right at a ‘Green Conference’… sooooo many plastic bags and gimmicky give-aways!

Anyhow, on to the event content…

One Planet Architecture

A VIP Workshop with Thomas Rau

A select group of 15 people invited to discuss sustainability (largely in relation to their work).

Thomas Rau (TR) is a 25 year old Architectural practice based in Amsterdam; they have 20 employees and work a 4-day week! (but 9 hours per day). Every day the staff are treated to an organic lunch too. Nice.

Whilst introducing himself and the company, founder Thomas Rau stated that:

Sustainability is about an attitude towards the planet… It’s about the continued biography of the human being….

He says ‘we’ (the built environment designers) need to become ‘farmers’… in that we need to know what we want in the next 20 years and put in place now, the things to deliver those targets. In addition he added:

…if you don’t know where you’re heading, your next step could be a big one in the wrong direction…

WWF HQ Zeist. 2006 CO2 neutral office buildingimage

TR’s approach to water use is three way. As it is mostly cooler than the air in the summer and warmer than the air in the winter, water is used for cooling > Washing hands >Flushing. A good use of water that saves thousands of litres of water a year.

Interestingly TR do not focus on certification ‘tests’, they say it addresses the economy and not the real sustainability issues. This is all very well when this is the essence of your practice, but not necessarily possible when clients have a limited target in mind… and see sustainability as an add-on. On one particular project they ignored BREEAM but aimed for the most sustainable building possible.

On a smaller scale TR demonstrated revolving doors used in a cafe fit out that produces energy. 1 revolution = power to make 1 coffee, it must be powered by kryptonite!


30 yr contract
3 consortia, 3 month competition
Worked with boele & van eesteren as contractor
Real estate volker wessels

Concept – 5 principles

Optimum use
Energy positive
Material bank

From loose buildings to an ensemble – a floating roof connects the existing buildings turning outside spaces into courtyards and internal links. As a bonus, Arup’s Water Cube was used as facade example for roof structure/ cladding – which was a nice plug.

In the re-skinning of the buildings the ‘internal’ facades allowed the re-use of waste materials produced by the client. In this case, electrical cable reels were used as timber for cladding other adaptations included increased window openings and planted (green wall) facades.

As part of the brief, the ‘atrium’ is required to be usable 80% of the year… I’m not sure they’ve considered acoustics, TR body swerved the question! When it rains, those ETFE roof bubbles will create so much noise…

In order to condition the atrium spaces heat expelled from the offices was in turn used to heat atrium. Quite clever, but there must be a significant amount of treatment before its expelled?

Q&A now…

Some naive questions about what the roof is made of, fundamentals of using multilayer ETFE for shading, GSHP for cooling. There’s an education required…

A contractor asking about roof costs and how they would persuade a developer client, thomas simply replied “TR do not work for developers! We work for clients with a vision”.

My question about design performance was answered somewhat vehemently with TR claiming to achieve 100% design performance vs construction performance … I’m not sure I believe him! He also claims that analysis and scenario calculations provide accurate enough data.

When quizzed about how they achieved the ‘energy positive’ status it was clear they were bluffing their way through explaining the energy sources! Which leads me to further doubt the match between design & actual performance.


Main stage

TR again!

Economise > Ecologise the economy.

Sell the food from your neighbours fridge… Of course you’ll make money, but it’s not yours to sell.

Change the rules of the system. New business models. Make new mistakes, not old ones.

Sustainable condoms, trees wrapped and certified.


Parallel Session – Updates to BREEAM, LEED and SBToolCZ.

Martin Townsend, Director of BREEAM and Cory W Benson DIRECTOR of MadeSustainable.

A building than achieves LEED Platinum now will struggle to achieve Gold in V4

Credit updates

More emphasis on product declarations as a requirement for really tightening up specification of well-performing products.

Overall higher performance thresholds to push sustainability.

New credits:

Site assessment
Cooling tower efficiency
Sub metering of water use
Demand response
Material ingredients
Interior lighting
Acoustic performance

New registrations Nov 2013
Full switch July 2015


Most questions asked in Czech, so missed them, but here’s a couple that were asked in English:

A valid question that will always be asked… How will investors easily differentiate between a v3 Platinum building and a V4 Platinum building? No specific answer other than it will be a different certificate. Yes but ‘how’ will investors differentiate?

Lots more similarities with BIM being seen here… Already I’ve heard the phrases ‘level of detail’ and ‘granularity’!

(NOTE. All figures used in this blog post are open to interpretation, but have come directly from the presentations!)


Not much else to say really – the above represents my brain dump of facts and figures from the conference which was rounded off with a drinks reception of minor proportions!

Suffice to say that it was worth attending, was worth speaking and I’d definitely go back – even if it were to improve my night-time photography skills!




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