Are you sure?

CEU grows a green campus downtown

The BREEAM environmentally certified project is meant to unify the diverse campuses of the university into one new construction.

Architect John Tuomey shows the work on one of the courtyards. (Photo: Matyas Pödör)

The first phase of the Central European University (CEU) Campus Redevelopment Project in the historical fifth district of Budapest is due to be completed in summer, with the shell and much of the interior completed, Irish architects Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey said at an April 26 presentation of the site.

The first non-commercial building project in CEE to receive Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) green accreditation incorporates high-tech functions while at the same time maintaining the classic Central European integrity of a UNESCO World heritage site. Both the facades and interiors were regarded as interconnected and intrinsic parts of the design, and architects were involved in the interior design from the outset, helping ensure that the inside spaces are coherently integrated into the overall design, planners said.

There is now a perceived need for new non-commercial buildings to be sustainable and green accredited, as is the case in the office sector.

“The aim of the project is to bring the entire university together into one campus on its 25th anniversary and in this way it will work in a more effective way,” said John Shattuck, president and rector of the CEU.

The development will provide a central 35,000 sqm campus across seven buildings, unifying the university’s departments. The first €16 million phase, consisting of the business school and library, is due in August. A second €8 mln phase, including the school of public policy, is scheduled to be completed in August 2018, and a third €4-5 mln phase, which would house an administrative center in a refurbished historical building, is set for delivery in August 2019.

The designers sought to construct a functional building that blends in and complements the surrounding classical Central European architecture. The project design was concluded after a series of consultations with the local municipality and heritage authorities in which “a range of opinions were expressed with regard to a new building in a world heritage setting”, the architects said. The end result will consist of around 60% of the old building, with 40% new. For example, the original staircases and brickwork have been preserved. Per the sustainability accreditation, all materials such as the stone used in the construction have been sourced locally.

Using the courtyards

O’Donnell and Tuomey where selected after an open tender and the design was developed over a four year period. “Such an enterprise raises a number of questions related to the interplay between contemporary architecture and urban cultural heritage,” said Sheila O’Donnell. “The urban fabric of the center of Budapest consists of courtyards and we were interested in preserving the old courtyards and using these to connect the different parts of the existing buildings into a physical unit. In the design there is a focus towards the courtyards – ways of making interconnections between the buildings, not only on the ground floor, but on the upper floors,” she said of the design process.

The building will have glass roofs that take into consideration the extreme temperature variations in Hungary and the need for air-conditioning in summer and efficient heating in winter. The use of natural lighting is meant to save electricity. “The design will reduce overall energy consumption by a third, significantly lowering the environmental impact of the CEU’s buildings. We are also looking at saving close to €1 mln per year thanks to energy efficiency prudent management of space and increased user consciousness regarding sustainable practices and installation of modern mechanical methods,” said Pál Baross, director of the CEU campus redevelopment office.

Pitched roofs with windows open to the sky in the courtyards are meant to give a feeling of openness. The project is not a “traditional” university design from the ground floor upwards but designed horizontally with a series of connected staircases, planners said. A rooftop garden spanning two buildings will provide views of the historical center of Pest and will be used for events. A conference center will have a capacity for 350 people. “A connected campus is the first principle of our work – connected to the city and connected with itself,” said architect John Tuomey.

Sustainable features were incorporated in the planning process from the outset and the project is only the second higher education institution in continental Europe – and the first in CEE – to be granted BREEAM “Very Good” accreditation. CEU received a 100% BREEAM transportation rating for providing as many as 200 cycle racks and shower facilities. There will be no car parking facilities apart from a limited number of service spaces.