November 5, 2008 saw the inauguration of an unusual building, inHaus2. For about one-and-a-half years, this building has been the subject of research and development concerning intelligent construction, new materials and energy-saving systems. But from now on, visitors will also be able to witness future-oriented, constantly changing and flexible room concepts being tested – for hotels, offices and nursing homes.
The cranes have been dismantled and the muddy paths have given way to an attractive park: inHaus2 is finished. “At least finished as far as construction is concerned,” specifies Klaus Scherer of the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS, who heads the inHaus innovation center in Duisburg. “In terms of research and development, on the other hand, we are far from reaching the end. All the exciting projects planned with our application partners are now about to begin, and the labs, as we call them, have been or are being set up.”
One of these is the Health and Care Lab, where new models are being developed which help to look after people in need of care, and the organization of care facilities is being made easier. Technical solutions can provide greater safety for elderly, disabled or sick people in need of care, without restricting their independence. In the next-generation nursing home with its networked room systems, cases of emergency can be automatically recognized and staff can react quickly. “But the idea goes much further than that, with sensors in each room automatically delivering electronic data to support the care documentation process. This would help to save an enormous amount of time and money, which in turn would benefit the patients,” explains Wolfgang Meyer of ambient assisted living GmbH. In order to find out how this idea would be received by the patients themselves and which measures would most effectively support the nursing staff, studies are being carried out at regular intervals with the help of everyone involved. On the occasion of the opening celebrations, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO presented its showcase “Pflege 2020” (Care 2020), introducing a living environment for elderly people that enables them to remain active and independent, and ensures their safety.
The other two research areas – NextHotel and OfficeLab – are being coordinated by the IAO and implemented in close collaboration with Lindner Hotels and T-Systems. In order to ensure that the developments actually take users’ needs into account, test specialists from the inHaus application partners regularly assess how practicable the concepts are in everyday life and how they can be marketed.
“Innovations concerning buildings have not developed anywhere near as dynamically as those in other sectors over the past decades, if we exclude all the smart glass facades. The great bursts of innovation we have experienced in information technology or biotechnology, for example, have not yet taken place in this domain. But that is about to change in a big way. The energy crisis, global warming and, above all, new requirements in terms of flexible use will induce a huge innovation competition, not only in Germany but also on a global scale. Everyone involved faces the same challenge – to realize ecologically, economically and socially sustainable buildings for living and working in,” says Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Bullinger, President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.
The plans and ideas of the nine participating Fraunhofer Institutes and their approximately 60 industrial partners cover a wide diversity of subjects. What unites them all is the goal of creating economical and environmentally friendly commercial properties – from construction and planning to materials research, running of the buildings, and various usages. “The visionary concepts being implemented here by the Fraunhofer researchers and their industrial partners will significantly change construction products and processes and the usage of buildings,” says Prof. Klaus Sedlbauer, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP. “This future-oriented model provides a great opportunity to positively and directly influence and improve people’s living environments.”
The state of North Rhine-Westphalia is already reaping the benefits: “The knowledge gained from the inHaus2 project with regard to lowering energy consumption in office buildings has been incorporated in the construction of the new building of the State Office for Data Processing and Statistics (LDS NRW). This means that inHaus2 has already entered the second chapter of its success story,” says innovation minister Professor Andreas Pinkwart.
A research program worth 27 million euros is scheduled to run until the end of 2011. Three-quarters of the approximately 9 million euros of investment funds required for the inHaus2 research facility is being provided by the EU and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The federal government, the city of Duisburg and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft are also supporting the project. The industrial partners and a range of public funding projects will each cover 50 percent of the costs for the inHaus2 research program. The joint activities are starting to pay off, as demonstrated by the first results: These include all the developed and tested components revolving around the intelligent construction site, ranging from electronic delivery notes and RFID goods-reading gates for delivery trucks to a construction-site portal and a digital building record (Digitale Gebäudeakte). The partners HOCHTIEF AG and T-Systems are already putting these results into practice at the next major building site: the Elbphilharmonie concert building in Hamburg.