Rudolfinum Combines Neo-Renaissance Beauty with Modern Technologies

The breathtaking Rudolfinum building is a gem of Prague Art Nouveau and masterfully enhances the concert and exhibition experience through architecture. But few would expect such a sophisticated system of state-of-the-art technology in a listed building. Yet it is a technology that breathes, lights, heats, and cools the building and, unseen, unheard, day after day, takes care of the performers and visitors’ comfort, musical instruments, and exhibited works.

06.09.2022 | Author: Alice Horáková

Old buildings are beautiful, but from an energy point of view can become nightmares. At the same time, investments in energy-saving solutions are multi-million currency outlays. For this reason, the Czech Philharmonic decided to modernize its domestic headquarters in cooperation with CEZ Group in the form of energy performance contracting (EPC).

"Although Rudolfinum is a beautiful historical monument, it functions as a smart building by the most modern standards today. It adapts its heating and airflow to the number of spectators and utilizes warmth and cooling from the nearby Vltava river. The savings are guaranteed directly in the contract and the contractor, which is us, guarantees them. Otherwise, we would have to pay the difference," Kamil Čermák, CEO of CEZ ESCO, explains the mechanism of EPC projects.

Dry for paintings, wet for violins

CEZ Group's experts have focused primarily on heat and cooling production and air conditioning savings through extensive modernization of energy management. "We had to cope with a number of conflicting requirements – ⁠the concert hall must be able to handle the heat radiated by 1,200 spectators, but the musicians cannot feel cold in their fingers. The artworks on display tend to need drier air while the stringed instruments, on the other hand, require higher humidity to avoid deterioration. It was a real challenge for our experts," Čermák says.

Rudolfinum also not only functions as a concert and exhibition space, but also hosts educational programs for the general public, is rented out for social and business events, and houses a stylish café and a top-quality recording studio. By the way, the recording studio has one more peculiarity that the CEZ experts had to deal with: its extremely sensitive technology uses direct current, which is the reason why all the wiring in the Rudolfinum is controlled in this nowadays rarely used way.

Heat from Vltava

Rudolfinum does not have its own boiler room, instead using the capacity of the one at the nearby Prague Conservatory. It does, however, now have a heat pump connected directly to the Vltava river. The water from the river helps with winter heating on one hand and summer cooling on the other. Even the actual placement of the heat pumps was no easy task – the pavement had to be dismantled, the entrance to the shaft had to be broken through and this was then used to transport the pumps to the basement of the building.

The insulation also brought significant savings. The thermal audit showed that most of the heat escapes through the ceilings. The largest one above the Dvořák Hall could be insulated through the attic above it. However, the real problem was the second largest ceiling: the glazing above the Main Hall. Any intervention changing the aesthetics of the place would not be approved by the conservationists. But the experts eventually got to grips with that, too.

Quality Monitored by 5,000 Sensors

A more powerful, yet efficient ventilation system has helped maintain a comfortable environment in the concert hall even during challenging summer months, when high humidity was a particular problem. At the same time, it allows to maintain the required humidity level in the storage rooms for valuable musical instruments.

The fresh cool air flows evenly amongst the musicians through the stage floor during concerts, so it does not matter how far the musicians sit from the air conditioning: no one freezes and no one overheats and everyone remains comfortable. In turn, the air quality is monitored by sensors measuring CO2 concentration.

Controlling the efficiency of technology operation is important as it allows one to look for additional savings and manage the whole complex as efficiently as possible. Experts receive data from a total of 5,000 monitoring points located in 134 rooms at Rudolfinum that are continuously evaluated.

The successful EPC project at Rudolfinum took place under the auspices of CEZ Group in 2015. The achieved savings (the Czech Philharmonic will pay up to 30% less for energy annually) will gradually amortize the initial investment of 20 million CZK, with an expected payback of nine years.