“Security and thoroughness are the supreme guidelines” Interview with the “immobilienmanager” magazine

Interview conducted by André Eberhard.

Your responsibilities at the Bundesbank include construction. What exactly does this task comprise?

This task is really rather comprehensive. While all other Federal Government construction projects are largely overseen by the Institute for Federal Real Estate (Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben, or BImA), the Bundesbank manages its own construction work. This is quite simply down to the heightened security requirements which set our buildings apart from traditional government buildings. The Bundesbank is currently working on roughly 160 construction projects of various sizes throughout Germany. The project portfolio encompasses extensive measures to revitalise individual high-tech official buildings but also programmes to implement certain infrastructure components on all premises, ranging all the way up to reshaping Central Office as part of “Project Campus”. Then there are special tasks, such as modernising computer centres and seminar or conference facilities. The Bundesbank’s Construction Management unit has a staff of around 250.

Redeveloping existing buildings is one of the topics dominating the real estate sector, especially against the backdrop of climate targets. A completely pragmatic question: how did the decision to redevelop the Bundesbank’s Central Office come about?

The main building at the Bundesbank’s Central Office was completed in 1972 and has therefore now been in continuous use for 50 years. The precast reinforced concrete elements and the window units in the façade of the main building need to be completely renovated, and the heating system no longer satisfies today’s energy efficiency standards. Even more importantly: in its current state, the main building no longer complies with current fire safety requirements. Furthermore, the standards for sustainability, digitalisation and IT security have risen by leaps and bounds and now place completely different demands on the main building compared to back when it opened for business. The north-south orientation of the main building additionally creates difficult climatic workplace conditions. It was therefore clear that the building had to be either fully refurbished or dismantled. This characteristic main building of the Bundesbank’s Central Office, resembling a skyscraper that has been tilted 90 degrees to the side, is now significant in terms of architectural history. Built in the architectural tradition of post-war modernism with allusions to “béton brut”, to many it represents an important element of Frankfurt’s stature as a financial centre. This prompted the Executive Board’s decision in early 2016 to have the main building fully refurbished.

And how did the decision to construct new buildings as annexes come about?

Opting for full refurbishment meant that we would have to clear the entire premises. This opened up the opportunity to implement a one-site strategy, i.e. to erect additional buildings in order to accommodate all Central Office staff in Frankfurt in one location. Previously, just under half of Central Office staff members in Frankfurt were spread out over various locations in the city centre.

Did the planning process have to be modified with regard to ESG developments?

Immediately after the design competition had been completed, once it was clear that we wanted to build on the basis of the urban design submitted by the architecture firm Ferdinand Heide Architekten, RWTH Aachen and the Fraunhofer Institute prepared two energy concepts on our behalf. We therefore had experienced advisers on board from the very beginning. Their task was to use the Ferdinand Heide design and existing consumption data to calculate the amount of heating, air conditioning and electricity needed, and to come up with scenarios for energy supply using state-of-the-art technology. We are now certain that the supply of heating and air conditioning throughout the campus will be climiate-neutral, based on geothermal energy and photovoltaic power. In addition, our sustainability and certification strategy was developed in close exchange with the advisory committee, which counts renowned experts in the field of sustainable construction among its members.

“Project Campus’s” certification strategy envisages a building certification of gold according to the Assessment System for Sustainable Building (Bewertungssystem Nachhaltiges Bauen, or BNB) for the main building and new office buildings, and a district certification of platinum according to the German Sustainable Building Council (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen, or DGNB) for the campus. This is, in both cases, the highest level of certification attainable.

It is not just its size that makes this project one of the largest refurbishments in Germany. How else does it differ from that of other comparably sized properties?

Security and thoroughness are the Bundesbank’s supreme guidelines for this project. The property belongs to us. We therefore know the users and their requirements. We do not need to plan from rental contract to rental contract. For us, it is about certainty of planning and the ability to make reliable forecasts. A useful life of 50 to 70 years, however, also raises the bar for construction quality. That means we have to set new standards in terms of construction quality, sustainability and digitalisation.

Across the “Campus Bundesbank” multiproject and beginning already with the main building, we will apply building information modelling (BIM), setting this project apart from comparable private and public sector projects.

And finally, the fact that more than half of Germany’s gold reserves are stored on the grounds means that security requirements are extremely high indeed.

This naturally has an impact on all phases of the construction project and presents particular challenges, precisely with regard to digitalisation and IT.

What role are current developments regarding the office workstation of the future playing at your institution?

All enterprises face the same problem; it is currently near impossible to predict how the workspace of the future will be. Nobody knows exactly how the importance of working from home, space allocation planning given social distancing requirements or standards regarding communal areas will evolve in the next ten years. Only high flexibility in interior construction will enable us to incorporate lessons learnt from the coronavirus pandemic into our expansion planning.

In what areas does BIM play a role in the refurbishment of the Bundesbank’s Central Office?

We apply BIM. Upon completion, the Bundesbank’s new campus will be used and operated by its owner, the Bundesbank. In keeping with the idea of acting sustainably, BIM will thus be developed and implemented throughout the property’s entire life cycle. The current pre-planning stage of the main building’s refurbishment is already being implemented using such modelling methods. On the basis of what we learn during “Project Campus”, these methods will then be gradually implemented in the Bundesbank.

What are the biggest challenges?

In the public sector, we are required to use openBIM. We still need to set standards for this. This will begin with modelling the main building and continue directly with the tender procedures. For EU tender procedures, there is a formal framework which, however, is not in sync with the heterogeneous market service level in respect of BIM. The internal change process is a further challenge. However, security is our supreme guideline in all respects.

© immobilienmanager. All rights reserved.