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Thinking about tomorrow, today

Under the leadership of Gerhard Hoffmann, the ifes Institute for Applied Energy Simulation and Facility Management from Cologne has devoted itself for over 20 years to a topic which is now high up on the political agenda: the energy revolution and the question of how to construct buildings energy-efficiently and use them sustainably. This is a portrait of a pioneer in the development of holistic energy and climate concepts for new and renovated buildings.

It almost looks as if the sun might shine. But the autumn weather is already here – and it is only September. It is the light timber that covers the inner courtyard of the “etrium”, the first German office building to passive house standard, that gives this impression. And the glass roof is responsible for transforming the etrium into a light, friendly oasis in amongst the rainy, grey skies. Designed by Benthem Crouwel, the etrium has been the headquarters of the Institute for Applied Energy Simulation and Facility Management (ifes for short) since April 2012. The manager of this 12-man company is Gerhard Hoffmann, who has been advising architects, clients and investors on a freelance basis since 1990, and founded the ifes in 1998. In doing this, he set a movement in motion that has since become an integral part of the architecture debate – the topic of “sustainability”. As a term, it is somewhat over-used, but it has nevertheless become a necessity for the building industry. Gerhard Hoffmann also supervised the design and implementation of the energy and climate concept for the etrium, which was one of the first passive house standard office buildings to receive the Gold award in 2008 from the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB). In April 2012, the ifes purchased what are now the business premises. Gerhard Hoffmann and his team therefore took advantage of the opportunity to move into an office building that also happens to be one of the key projects of the ifes. This was a stroke of luck, stresses Hoffmann: “Many of those who see the etrium for the first time are astounded at just how simple energy-saving architecture can be. And we can use this real project to show our customers how the technologies that we advocate can also be used in reality and in our everyday lives.”

A “child” of energy
Now for a brief explanation of how the energy consultancy began. Gerhard Hoffmann was born in May 1953. He describes himself as a “child of energy” – after having completed his physics degree at the Aachen/ Jülich University of Applied Sciences in 1971, Hoffmann initially worked in the field of nuclear energy technology until he decided in 1976 (three years after the first oil crisis) to study for a second degree in energy and process engineering at TU Berlin. In 1980, at the same time as the first energy revolution, Hoffmann began researching the topic of using regenerative energies. For his thesis, he developed an integrated simulation programme, which was used to supply regenerative energy to an pumps and combined heat and power units. Between 1980 and 1986, he worked as a project manager for the Federal Republic of Germany testing solar energy systems in Australia, Indonesia and Mexico. However, the decisive step for Hoffmann towards founding the ifes was his role as Energy Commissioner for the city of Cologne. From 1986 to 1990, he was responsible for managing and supplying energy to around 1200 real estate properties. The aim of his work was to develop and supervise the implementation of energy concepts for buildings, districts and the sewage plants in Cologne. As part of a research programme and to improve the design of energy-saving buildings, the first simulation programmes were identified (if they were already available on the market) and their suitability was tested. Then it was the 1990s. The architects got braver, with glass architecture forging its way into construction. Hoffmann founded his consulting company in Frechen near Cologne – which made him hugely popular among civil engineers and architects, but was soon to receive criticism. According to Hoffmann, “As the German regulations on architects’ and engineers’ fees (HOAI) at the time were oriented to building costs and, with my calculation methods, I was able to forecast the energy requirement and therefore the costs much more accurately, the conflict between increased planning work and potentially lower fees was predestined.” However, in order to provide a broader base for the methods of the dynamic building and plant simulation, the Guideline Committee of the Association of German Engineers (VDI) on the “thermal and energy simulation of buildings and plants” was founded in 1996 together with its then competitors. This led to VDI Guideline 6020 - thermal and energy simulation of buildings and plants.

The four pillars
Since 1998, the services of this Cologne-based company, which advises and supports architects, engineers, entrepreneurs and clients throughout all the planning phases of a building structure, have been primarily based on four pillars. The largest proportion of the work done by the ifes is the comprehensive analysis and design of sustainable energy concepts, focusing in particular on the design and optimisation of building physics, energy technology, sound reduction and the issuing of the EnEV certificate. And all of this whilst taking life cycle costs into account. A second important pillar is simulation. A basic distinction must be made here between thermal building simulation, plant simulation, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and fire and smoke extraction simulations. This pillar allows the objective, detailed analysis of concepts and designs in the early planning phases. The third pillar is based on the certification of buildings in accordance with the DGNB, BREEAM and LEED sustainability standards and on providing sustainability consultancy for clients and architects on the basis of the different certification systems, from the design stage right through to completion. A fourth area of expertise of the ifes is design and quality assurance, with a focus on approval, monitoring and consultancy for technical project and energy management.

1360 projects in 23 years
The latest project of ifes is a green building: the “Visitor Centre of XiXi Wetland Park in Hangzhou / China”, for which Hoffmann and his team had created the energy and climate concept and which has now been awarded the LEED Platinum and the illustrious Chinese ELITE Award 2013 in Gold in the Architecture category. Other current ifes projects are the “Dancing Towers” by Bothe Richter Teherani from Hamburg and the Emporio Tower in Hamburg by HPP. ifes supervised the modernisation of the high rise from the first design phase through to completion, using thermal building simulation and structural analysis of the façade. For the LEED certification, Energy Modeling with a “Whole Building Simulation” was carried out for the LEED Platinum rating. Also included in the ifes portfolio are the ThyssenKrupp headquarters in Essen, which received the DGNB Gold certificate with Hoffmann as the Senior Auditor responsible. A smaller scale ifes project is the “Badeschiff” floating swimming pool on the River Spree in Berlin by Gil Wilk and Thomas Freiwald. Gerhard Hoffmann and his team are also active overseas. In St. Petersburg, for example, the Nevsky town hall, which is currently being built in accordance with the designs of nps tchoban voss, has a central atrium and glass dome that are based on the energy and climate concept of the Cologne institute. Even if the ifes has not seen all of its approximately 1400 projects right through from start to finish, the institute is always present when the key decisions need to be made, i.e. what must the developer consider in terms of building physics, façade technology, fluid technology and the climate? They mostly approach the ifes with a specific task relating to energy, building physics and/or certification issues. For the quality assurance and supervision of the implementation of the project, contact is normally made through the architects, clients or investors. Being able to offer such a wide range of services is an asset for the ifes and bears out their motto of “Thinking about tomorrow, today”.

With willpower and an instinct for the right timing, Gerhard Hoffmann has successfully built up a multi-faceted company which has nevertheless retained its personal character and which, in times of globalisation, draws upon those very values. Personal contact with customers is important to Hoffmann, which is why initial contact with the customer is mostly made by him. The aim is successful cooperation with the ifes team. Mutual understanding and appreciation are a top priority – a prerequisite even. To keep abreast of developments in academia and research, Hoffmann worked as a lecturer in the Architecture Faculty at the University of Münster between 2000 and 2008. Since 2013, he has taught Building Simulation at South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences. It’s hard to believe that Hoffmann still finds time to give presentations and attend events, where he is always a welcome guest – for example, he spoke at BAU 2013 and E-world energy & water. Gerhard Hoffmann is an accredited senior auditor of the DGNB, which alone ensures he has a busy schedule of appointments and projects. One might think that all this leaves little time for family. But that is not entirely the case. Since 1998, Heide Hoffmann has been working at her husband’s company and is in charge of the back office and marketing. Hoffmann’s daughter has also now taken up the position of BREEAM DE auditor for the company. Provisions have already been made for the future and for the further growth of the company both nationally and internationally. To reinforce and expand the value added chain for buildings and production, the Hoffmann family became partners in TÜV Rheinland Industry Service GmbH in September 2013. As an independent subsidiary with a broad spectrum of services, the ifes will remain the contact for all of its existing areas of expertise and services and will work together with customers to find flexible and appropriate solutions. Gerhard Hoffmann will continue to support the topics of energy efficiency and sustainability in future through reliable consultancy and by using state-of-the-art tools and will remain true to the aim of the entire ifes team: “Thinking about tomorrow, today”.