The Institute of Physics of the Humboldt University Berlin is an exceptional project of ecological urban development featuring various innovations of sustainable construction. The focus of the project is a concept of decentralized rainwater management, building greening and elements for cooling and ventilation. Rainwater is stored in cisterns and used to irrigate a façade greening system and to generate evaporative cooling in air conditioners. Extra water is collected in a pond in the building’s courtyard allowing the water to either evaporate or drain into the ground.
Green façades are expected to provide an active solar shading system. As a “side effect” they illustrate the changing seasons. Ten types of climbing plants have been planted in 150 planters on nine different building façades. Façade greening is closely related to the effort of optimizing the energy efficiency of the building. Plants provide shade during summer, while in the winter the sun’s radiation is able to pass through the glass front. The greening also harnesses evapotranspiration to improve the microclimate inside and around the building. In addition, a special system of irrigation and different substrates have also been applied and studied. A factor in the selection was an adequate capillary climbing capacity. A layer of insulation was provided to some of the planter boxes to compensate for large shifts in temperature and to help protect against very low winter temperatures. A comparison with boxes without insulation revealed significant differences in the growth of plants according to their location.