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H7 headquarters, Andreas Heupel Architekten, Münster

Innovative Wood Hybrid: Award-Winning H7 by Andreas Heupel Architekten

On its narrow lot, H7 – which is delimited by the canal to the west – fits into the space between the adjacent buildings. To the south, it shares a forecourt with its neighbours; this is the main access. In order to compensate for the smaller transverse dimensions, the architects have used height. The structure comprises seven storeys which present themselves as a compact volume. Recesses enable terraces and outdoor areas on all levels.

The concept behind H7 is based on a combination of transparency and closedness. Glazed in its entirety apart from champagne-coloured frame profiles, the end faces of the building offer some insight into the construction of the building. In contrast, the transverse façades are closed off and show the outlines of the seven storeys. Over the length of the building, rows of ceiling-high windows are arranged in a regular grid. This grid frames a terracotta façade in three shades of mossy green; the deliberate lack of pattern to the range of colours gives the building a vibrant look. The green tones move around the glazing and take on a different, shimmering appearance with the changing angles of the sun. The terracotta elements are structured by a relief of horizontal lines. This corresponds to the sunshades on the windows, which consist of horizontal slats. Their colour takes up the frame profiles of the transverse sides of the building.

H7 is a structure made of prefab components. The façade elements arrived at the building site with their windows already installed; they were then joined to the flooring modules and completed with in-situ concrete arranged into fire compartments. In terms of fire protection, the innovative planning here allows a completely new use of the material wood. For example, adaptations to the cross-sections obviated the need to encapsulate the individual pieces and made it possible to leave the joists freely accessible. A centrally placed axis of reinforced concrete which extends longitudinally functions as a static spine for the solid-timber construction. It incorporates the access area and is clearly visible on the surface.

Apart from offices, the spatial program of this administration building includes seminar and bistro areas on the ground floor as well as – in the spirit of sustainability – showers for cyclists. With respect to design, the interior lives from the effect of the construction – exposed concrete combined with unclad wooden surfaces. These give the ceilings structure in the form of construction timber and acoustic panels; they also reveal the force progression of the building. The rooms are bright and benefit from the generous glazing.

In H7, when it comes to sustainability several components are in play which make it a truly green building even aside from its façade design. Just the use of wood saved 262 tonnes of CO₂  compared to ordinary concrete structures. Moreover, the rooms are heated with district heating and illuminated with LEDs. A photovoltaic system has been installed. All these features mean that the building in every way represents the ecological character requested by the client.
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