The Reichstag Berlin

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Architect Foster and Partners

Lighting Design Claude Engle

Client Federal Republic of Germany

The reconstruction of the old Berlin Reichstag Building from its mutilated condition after the Second World War, to its brilliant new form was rooted in four main principles:

• The Bundestag's significance as a democratic forum

• A commitment to public accessibility

• A sensitivity to history

• A rigorous environmental agenda.

The architects have addressed each of these principles, but the purpose of this Case Study is to concentrate on the last of these objectives, in which daylighting is clearly a priority.

The brief for an energy efficient building was developed by the design team in conjunction with the Federal Government, with low fossil fuel and CO2 emissions leading to a more sustainable architecture. This led to the following solutions:

1. Combined heat and power generation, associated with seasonal energy storage.

2. The use of biomass (rape seed oil) as a renewable energy source for the production of electricity, the result of which is a 94 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

3. Natural ventilation and natural daylight.

4. Solar energy. The use of 100 solar panels on the roof, providing a peak output sufficient to drive the exhaust air ventilation system of the main plenary chamber, together with other shading devices within the dome.

Norman Foster's initial concept forthe dome, and the light sculptor

Dome Shaped Metal Structure Section
Section illustrating the relationship of the plenary chamber, with the dome and light sculptor

One of the key aims has been to optimize the use of natural daylight throughout the building, to minimize the use of artificial lighting, thus reducing electricity consumption.

The main feature of the building, as experienced by the general public is the cupola or dome on the roof, located above the plenary chamber, The cupola is crucial to the daylighting and ventilation strategies forthe building. At its core is the light sculptor which rises from the top of the chamber, opening out towards the cupola. This reflective cone provides the solution to lighting and ventilating the chamber. The reflector is a concave faceted cone, covered with a battery of 360 angled mirrors which together form a giant fresnel lens working like a lighthouse in reverse, directing horizontal light down to the chamber. The cone is associated with a moveable sun-shield blocking solar gain and glare during the day, whilst at night the process is reversed, with the cupola becoming a beacon to establish the location and purpose of the building as a symbolic and vital part of the Federal Capital.

The only way truly to appreciate the science and artistry of the building is to experience the magic of the daylighting effects, by visiting it. The goal of the design team has been to create a building that will be energy efficient, wherever possible using natural renewable energy sources to provide maximum comfort, striving towards a more 'sustainable architecture'.

This light sculptor is a part of the ventilation system bringing air up towards the top of the dome whilst at the same time it reflects horizontal light to the chamber.

Reichstag Entrance Decor

Norman Foster's initial concept forthe dome, and the light sculptor

Old Reichstag Plan
Plan showing the central plenary chamber, with its relationship to the main entrance
Architecture Artificial Light
MP lobby, showing side window daylighting

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Solar Panel Basics

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