ZSW Stuttgart – A façade that generates energy

Blackish blue plates with large cells – photovoltaic systems have not only become a symbol of renewable energies. Their characteristic look also changes the appearance of landscapes and buildings. Especially in the latter case, however, this is often a question of taste, since creative freedom and aesthetics play a decisive role in architecture. Renewable energies and architecture with a strong design need not be mutually exclusive. This is shown by the innovative solar façade of the ZSW research building in Stuttgart, which was honoured with the award “Energy transition in action”. A pioneer project that looks splendid, too!

Logo of energy transition in action

This project was recognized by the Ministry for the Environment, Climate and Energy Economics Baden-Württemberg for its special contribution to the energy transition. 

Building of the ZSW
Impressive and sustainable – the research institute
A research team full of energy – innovations are born here
A research team full of energy – innovations are born here
Dr. Andre Baumann talks to the employees
Vision 2020: The ZSW is planning a completely climate-neutral energy supply
Two men looking at the production hall and talking to each other
A tour of the institute. A place for research, innovation...
Staatssekretär spricht mit mehreren Mitarbeitern
…and for conversations.
An award to be proud of. Minister of State Dr. Andre Baumann gives the plaque to Prof. Dr. Frithjof Staiß and Prof. Dr. Michael Powalla (from right to left)
An award to be proud of. Minister of State Dr. Andre Baumann gives the plaque to Prof. Dr. Frithjof Staiß and Prof. Dr. Michael Powalla (from right to left)

Striking architecture meets innovative solar technology

On the exterior of the ZSW (Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg) building in Stuttgart, one can see what is being intensively researched inside: Innovative photovoltaic technologies are developed here, above all the so-called CIGS modules. This is a special thin-film photovoltaic technology that is perfectly suited for use on building façades due to its material properties, high performance, low weight and adaptable appearance. The modules look like matte glass, have barely visible cell structures and can be coloured or even given a decorative structure. 

Prof. Dr. Frithjof Staiß accepts the award “Energy transformation in action” from Minister of State Dr Andre Baumann (from left to right)
Prof. Dr. Frithjof Staiß accepts the award “Energy transition in action” from Minister of State Dr Andre Baumann (from left to right)

A wide range of potential, which the institute tapped when designing its new research building in 2017: Thin-film modules for energy supply were integrated into the building façade. Already in the first planning discussions, the ZSW (under the project management of Dieter Geyer, responsible for the realisation of the façade) approached the architects and the specialist planners with this exciting idea. After all, the façade-integrated photovoltaic system system, unlike conventional façades, must be taken into account early on, when planning the electrical engineering. Close cooperation resulted in a holistically conceived and almost climate-neutral building, a structure which could not be more tasteful in its entirety. 

Dr. Andre Baumann looks at the façade
Thin-film PV modules integrated in the façade supply the ZSW with energy
Dieter Geyer, Employee ZSW
“I stand by the energy transition,” says Dieter Geyer, who has been at the ZSW since 1990.

An entirely sustainable concept  

Bringing the project to life meant making the most of the building. Three side walls of the building tower and the roof serve as the surface for solar radiation to generate energy: as continuously as possible from morning to evening. 
The building’s energy concept is supplemented by geothermal ground probes with heat pumps that dissipate excess process heat or cold. This is then used to heat or cool the rooms. The waste heat generated during the work and research processes at the ZSW can also be used for heating.
The energy balance is impressive: 50 per cent of the heat is obtained sustainably from geothermal energy. The solar modules on the façade and on the roof provide a considerable proportion of the electricity required in the building, which is quite high due to the laboratories and research facilities. The additional electricity required is purchased from a green electricity provider. And that’s not all: By 2020, the ZSW is aiming for a completely climate-neutral energy supply.
For the ZSW, sustainability is not only a question of energy production. It also applies to the architecture. It should be durable and open, a lively place for meetings at eye level and opportunities to exchange ideas. The approximately 260 employees and 90 students of the ZSW should feel completely at home, now and in the future. The timelessly elegant design of the building takes this into account.

Pioneering the energy transition 

The institute building of the ZSW is a pioneer in many respects. Research here is not an end in itself. Every technology developed here contributes practically to the success of the energy transition. The building concept is impressive proof of this. A milestone for the sustainable, climate-neutral architecture of the future. A place that’s full of energy. 

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