Skolkovo, around 20 kilometres west of the centre of Moscow, is home to the developing innovation city known as "Innograd". In just a few years, it is hoped that more than 30,000 scientists and engineers will work in Russia's Silicon Valley. The first building and beating heart of the site is the Hypercube, a transformable, high-efficiency communication centre with freely cantilevered balconies on all sides. The balconies are both supported and thermally separated from the building envelope by the Schöck Isokorb thermal insulation element, which is a proven success even in the harsh continental climate.
When vision, science and economic strength come together, increased prosperity is sure to follow. The aim of founding the innovation city, which was announced in 2010 by then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, is to create the perfect environment for the development of ultra-modern technologies – the Russian Silicon Valley. Particularly high standards were set for the first Skolkovo building. It had to be innovative, versatile and forward-looking, to serve as an inspiring examples for all other buildings that are to be constructed on the 400-hectare research site – and much more besides.
The task of designing and planning the first Skolkovo building fell to Moscow architect Boris Bernaskoni in 2010. At the time, he was 33 and well-known for a wide range of successful, visionary projects.
Energy efficiency at the highest level
Bernaskoni designed a flexible, hi-tech building to meet the strict international guidelines regarding energy efficiency, ergonomics, cost-effectiveness and environmental responsibility. "These concepts are only slowly gaining significance in Russia," says the ambitious architect. "Most developers focus very much on the short term. They build low-cost buildings and then sell them on, rather than using the buildings themselves. And this is a major problem, because sustainable architecture needs clients to think about the long term. The Hypercube managed to overcome many challenges – including this one. The Skolkovo Foundation is pursuing a visionary goal. And we feel very lucky that we were able to set an example with this project which has attracted huge interest in Russia and all over the world," says Boris Bernaskoni.
The Hypercube was built in accordance with the green standard "Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design" (LEED v3). The LEED certification system was developed in the USA and is used internationally, although not – until now – in Russia. Was it possible to achieve the required efficiency values, even in Moscow's extreme continental climate? After all, the northernmost areas of the United States, excluding Alaska, are on approximately the same latitude as the subtropical south of Russia, around the city of Sochi. Boris Bernaskoni relied on the latest technologies, which had to prove themselves equal to Moscow's demanding climate conditions in tests.
Thermal bridge challenge
Bernaskoni's design was not just for a "green" building, which is heated entirely with geothermal energy, uses its own recycling system for service water and covers part of its electricity requirements using solar energy. It is also innovative in terms of its interior layout, the size and height of which can be modified over time. A rust-proof metal grid stretches over the external façade. This transforms the building into a gigantic screen, onto which images and messages can be projected. "Particularly in a metropolis like Moscow, it is extremely important to be able to feel a connection with the outside world and with nature during your day-to-day work. This is why we have fitted large windows and included freely cantilevered balconies on all seven storeys of the building," says Bernaskoni.
But how could the thermal bridges which are created when the balconies are connected to the building envelope be minimised? After all, the temperatures in the Russian capital can range from +40 degrees Celsius in the summer to -40 degrees Celsius in the winter. The air conditioning and heating systems would be working flat out, to say nothing of the risk of condensation and mould. "To achieve a high level of energy efficiency in the building, you have to ensure that the building envelope is well-insulated and sealed as far as possible. Any additions must be thermally isolated," says Nikolay Pavlov, Sales Manager at Schöck OOO, Moscow. "This means that you have to tackle the problem of thermal bridges early on in the planning phase."
Load-bearing thermal insulation element
Boris Bernaskoni became aware of the Schöck Isokorb during consultations with international experts. This load-bearing thermal insulation element solved the Hypercube's structural and energy-related problems, whilst also offering a large degree of aesthetic freedom due to the numerous product versions available. The Schöck Isokorb type KXT with an insulation thickness of 120 mm (see info box) was used to reduce thermal bridges on the connections between the reinforced concrete balconies and the building. To optimise the thermal isolation properties, the Isokorb was simply inserted between the pre-installed balcony and interior ceiling reinforcement during the construction of the Hypercube.
"Overall, 800 Schöck Isokorb elements were used in the construction work on the Hypercube," explains Valeri Tscherkas, International Design Engineer at the Schöck headquarters in Baden-Baden, Germany. "Schöck puts together the right Isokorb type KXT standard variants according to the load-bearing capacity required at the installation location in question. In addition, special constructions are implemented quickly and simply by Schöck Application Technology for individual connection situations. This was the case for the Hypercube: as it had to be possible to change the layout of the interior, the Isokorb could not always be anchored in the building's ceiling construction. We therefore bent the Schöck Isokorb bars in the relevant places and adapted them to the specified shape in accordance with all engineering rules."