Rudolfinum Combines Neo-Renaissance Beauty with Modern Technologies

The Rudolfinum breathtaking building is a gem of Prague Art Nouveau and masterfully enhances the concert and exhibition experience with its architecture. But few would expect a sophisticated system of state-of-the-art technology in a listed building. Yet it is the one 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 nightmares from the energy point of view. At the same time, investments in energy-saving solutions are multi-million currency items. For this reason, the Czech Philharmonic decided to modernize its home 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 uses the heat and cold 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 cold production and air conditioning savings during the 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 be cold on their fingers. The artworks on display tend to need drier air while the stringed instruments, on the other hand, require higher humidity to avoid destruction. 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, but it uses the capacity of the one at the nearby Prague Conservatory. However, it now has 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 hand. Even the actual placement of the heat pumps was not easy–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 been helping 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 needed humidity level in the storage rooms for valuable musical instruments.

The fresh cool air flows evenly between 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 nor overheats and everyone is comfortable. In turn, the air quality is monitored by sensors measuring CO2 concentration.

Controlling the efficiency of technology operation is generally very 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.