The REC's newly constructed zero CO2 emissions conference centre was unveiled during a June 27 opening ceremony at the organisation's head office in Szentendre, Hungary. Funded primarily by the Italian Ministry of Environment, the centre received considerable additional support from Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway. Local businesses also contributed towards the project, offering significant discounts for many of the specialist building materials and technologies required. The EUR 2 million construction cost is expected to be recouped in energy savings in just 20 years.
Designed by Italian architects Architetture Sostenibili, the new centre's ambitious eco-targets were realized with a combination of specific design techniques and energy systems. Electricity for the building is supplied by 140 rooftop solar panels, although a two-way exchange link to the national grid can manage both periods of power surplus and shortage. Along with effective insulation, 12 geothermal heat pumps increase the efficiency of the building's heating and cooling systems year round. Taking advantage of the thermal difference potential created by relatively constant underground temperatures to drive air circulation, they automatically adjust internal climate according to the number of people inside at any given time. Natural lighting is maximised throughout with a reflective shelf positioned below a ceiling-height window strip on each floor. As well as directing sunlight inward, adjustable fixtures convert the shelf into a shading mechanism during the summer months. In addition, ambient light sensors continuously adjust artificial illumination levels.
In addition to serving as a venue for REC and partner-organised conferences, the new centre will also be made available to other organisations and companies with green credentials. As part of efforts to promote eco-architecture locally, school groups, engineering students and other interested professionals will be able to take advantage of guided tours of the facility. The building's two main halls (80 and 120-person capacity) will also be used for information campaigns and climate change-related demonstrations.
The new centre provides a much needed hub from which REC can coordinate its efforts to ensure that ongoing rapid social and economic change in Central and Eastern European is on solid environmental footing.