GES-2 and the environment

Project: History and architecture of GES-2

When the Tramway Plant (the name by which GES-2 was initially known) was built at the beginning of the twentieth century, little thought was given to matters of ecology. The power station’s brick smokestacks released the by-products of oil, peat, coal, and firewood combustion into Moscow’s sky (“Moscow River in four-pipe smoke, ” as Osip Mandelstam wrote in 1931). Wastewater was allowed to run into the river, where one could see floating stains of fuel oil. Even once the power station had switched to a cleaner fuel—natural gas—the ecology of the area left much to be desired.

The architects at Renzo Piano Building Workshop approached the reconstruction of GES-2 with entirely different principles. Every aspect of the House of Culture was designed to cause as little harm to the surrounding environment as possible. Solar panels were laid over the roof of the building. Energy-efficient technologies were introduced into its engineering systems—from ventilation to lighting. Rainwater is used both in the bathrooms and in the Forest’s irrigation system, where an underground control panel ensures water reaches each and every plant.

Solar panels of GES-2 House of Culture, 2021
Photo: Yuri Palmin
Solar panels on the roof of GES-2 House of Culture, 2021
Photo: Michel Denancé

The power station’s sooty brick smokestacks have been replaced with tall blue metal chimneys. These perform a function opposite to that of their predecessors, drawing in clean air from an altitude of 72 metres and distributing it throughout the building.

In 2022, GES-2 became the first cultural institution in Russia to receive the prestigious LEED Gold environmental certification. Among other things, the House of Culture was awarded points for recycling 50% of construction waste, for its greywater recycling and rainwater collection systems, for its bicycle and electric car parking areas, for its use of solar panels and certified wood. In terms of sustainable architecture, it might be said that you are standing in one the most modern buildings in the world.

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