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The newly opened Unilever Headquarters for Northern Europe has two basic principles in mind-sustainability through low energy use and a social climate based on a town center. The first is achieved though carful thermal control elements and the latter though a large day lit atrium. The headquarters is located on the Elbe River in Hamburg, Germany.

Unilever, manufacturer of iconic brands such as Dove Soap, Lipton Tea, and Vaseline is putting sustainable practices to the forefront of their identity and takes that approach to the concept of their headquarters. Behnisch Architekten came up with a design that uses less than 100 Kwh/a m² of energy consumption. The exterior has a transparent open air outer skin to reduce heat gain and wind effect from the river. The interior uses a cooling system controlled by a chilled concrete ceiling. The thermal mass effect helps cool people effectively with a significantly reduced energy demand. The daylighting is controlled manually and with built-in glare control measures. Acoustic control was tailored to keep the atrium sound levels comfortable. A system of SMD LED or surface mount LED lights was developed and installed to save nearly 70% of the energy of halogen lighting.

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The atrium is designed as a gathering place for employees to work and relax as well as a place for the public to visit and interface with the company. Being adjacent to Hamburg’s city center the lower level is open to the public with a café, spa, and a place to buy soap. The designers used the concept of a town center with many distinct paths and open spaces to encourage interactions among employees of different departments. Bridges, food centers, and distinct meeting areas in the atrium create a vertical village.

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