As well as shaping our environment, buildings preserve the memory of times long past. Achieving climate targets also means it’s important to look after existing buildings, as was the case in Berlin recently with the refurbishment of a residential building more than 130 years old. The project has underscored that it is possible to carry out renovations in keeping with preservation orders and sustainability needs.
Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm – or simply Ku’damm if you’re a local – is a colourful avenue of buildings, an eclectic mix of time-honoured edifices dating back to the years of rapid industrial expansion in Germany and post-war modernism, but also the present day. Not far from the Gedächtniskirche memorial church, Petra and Paul Kahlfeldt Architects have preserved a piece of architectural history on Ku’damm thanks to a general renovation of No. 15, a residential and commercial building erected in 1889.
The new Gloria Berlin complex now comprises the so-called Mampe Haus plus two new buildings. Overall, the building ensemble offers 19,800 square metres of retail and office space. The complex is named after the former Gloria Palast cinema, which made way for the project along with a housing and office block. Many major movies had premiered at the historical Gloria Palast cinema since the 1930s. Responsibility for the design of the two new buildings lay with Berlin architects Ortner & Ortner.
Holistic planning – right to the finishing line
Let’s look at the existing building, which is subject to a preservation order. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say the architects did an amazing job. The building, most recently used as a hotel, now shines again in the splendour of bygone days – inside and out. At the same time, however, it’s a shining example of a future-ready building. Its owner, Dusseldorf-based property developers Centrum, not only ensured the edifice was refurbished in keeping with building preservation criteria, they also had it certified according to the DGNB System criteria for existing buildings and renovations.
One thing that makes the DGNB certification system so special is that it gives consideration to the specific requirements of buildings subject to preservation orders. The refurbishment project on Ku’damm received platinum certification, the highest possible level of certification under the DGNB System. It’s also the first listed building to be certified by the DGNB.
Commenting on the success of the completed project, Rudi Purps, managing director of the Centrum group of companies, said: “Achieving the top level of DGNB certification is a wonderful success for us and something we can be proud of. Renovating a listed building – one more than 130 years old, no less – and being as faithful as possible to the original, while at the same time creating a contemporary and sustainable building for commercial use, is always a big challenge, for the building owner and the architects. This outstanding certification achievement is a testament to our hard work and dedication.”
A renovation, but also a contemporary working environment
The planning process started in 2016. Wherever possible, the historic building remained intact with – at most – high-quality, simple materials being added or restored to their original condition. The roof, the neo-baroque facade, the doors and windows, and the staircase were all repaired and restored according to current technical requirements. Following the restoration, the stucco ceilings (with the paintings now visible), the stately wooden ceiling panels and the lavishly decorated tiled stoves once again bear witness to the splendour of the Wilhelmian Era. Essential building features that had to be upgraded related to fire protection and sound insulation.
Summing up the renovation, the architect responsible for the project, Prof. Petra Kahlfeldt, says: “The fact that the conversion has made the house future-ready for another 135 years – and this was achieved in keeping with modern sustainability criteria – makes us very proud!”
The ground floor of the building has been put aside for retail, while the upper four storeys have been turned into a stimulating work environment. Tenants can now savour the remarkable atmosphere of the old building without missing out on features of modern convenience. Because sustainability principles were also taken into account during the planning process, users of the building enjoy healthy indoor air and a comfortable room climate.
Building preservation and sustainability in harmony
DGNB Auditor Nina Peters from the Krefeld-based consulting firm Office for Consulting oversaw certification for the building owner and architects. Summarising the project, she says: “For me personally, this project was very close to heart because of the fantastic way the listed building was re-injected with life, totally in keeping with the concept of sustainability. The excellent coordination with the architects, Petra and Paul Kahlfeldt, the commitment shown by the building owner, and then successfully gaining the highest level of DGNB certification makes me more than happy.”
The success of the renovation project, in terms of both sustainability and design, shows that it’s always worthwhile preserving existing buildings. In addition to taking responsibility for building culture, it also brings us one step closer to achieving climate targets.