It's green up north...

Gonzalo Carro López
Wednesday 24 Feb 2010

ACXT completes the carbon-neutral Interpretation Centre for Technology in Spain's Basque Country

BTEK is designed for student visitors. Its goal is to encourage an interest in science among young people, especially in light of the continued decline in students studying science at the university level. For this reason, it is fundamental that the architecture be a surprising experience; attractive and emotional, singular in form and unrelated to conventional spaces and scales; a place that creates an environment where young people will be receptive to learning.

The building was envisioned as a landmark, a reference point that is integrated into the landscape through two apparently uninterrupted pyramid-shaped volumes; the first a heavy, black volume that seems to emerge from the earth, whose cover is formed by a specifically designed patterned network of perfectly integrated solar panels. By contrast, the other volume is formed by two glass facades and a cover of grass that constitutes an extension of the terrain.

The complex is terraced on three levels that follow the slope of the terrain. Large stairways and ramps form connections, following the building geometry and volume in a sequential path, constantly changing the perception of the space.The building has a low environmental impact, thanks to excellent insulation and low energy demand, along with energy efficient building services. Geothermal power is used, in the most efficient way possible, for both heating and cooling (low water temperatures for heating and high for cooling, energy recovery ventilation and free cooling). A photovoltaic system connected to the electricity grid at 60 kW (panels at a 30º plane for maximum output) produces as much electrical energy as the building consumes, making it CO2 neutral to use.

The concepts of bio-climatic design, energy savings and sustainability have been incorporated into the exhibit contents, including tours of the geothermal building services room and a visualisation console displaying the energy produced by the photovoltaic panels and the reduction in CO2 emissions.

The spaces have been designed to try to match the appropriate environment to the different exhibit contents, providing a framework to concentrate the message being transmitted, all with the aim of providing a base for young people to increase their awareness and sensitivity.

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