AAU’s new multimillion-crown building will be nearly as drafty as its current one, according to school officials, because of historic preservation laws that limit the changes allowed even during extensive renovations.
That means the Baroque-era Thurn-Taxis Palace will be no showcase of eco-friendly insulation, said Zdenek Johanovsky, director of operations.
Although AAU’s rent for its new home will be 9 million Kč annually, up from 7,15 million Kc at its current location, maintenance costs will double. From 1,2 to 2,4 million Kč, the vast majority of which will need to be covered by the school’s primary revenue source: student tuition.
The historic palace near the Malostranska metro has been undergoing extensive renovations for more than a year but that does not mean that its insulation will improve or even that it will gain fully weatherized windows.
Bau Plus and Avers, the two companies doing the work, have 10 years’ experience together and point out that the project is developing according to applicable standards and plans.
The Thurn-Taxis palace is under the protection of National Monument Office, which means that insulation with polystyrene, or new windows are forbidden, in order to preserve its historic character.
Old windows are major issue since such buildings lose significant heat without modern weatherproofing – 10 percent, according to scholarly article Energy Efficiency in Traditional Buildings.
In this case the university did the best it could, installing modern windows in the attic, where it does not interfere with the looks of the building.
And on the lower floors some rooms will get double-glazed windows, which improve the insulation at least a little. But those are the only places where the windows could have been improved.
“About the question of insulation, there is nothing that the school can do – unfortunately, we cannot control it,” said Johanovsky. “Given that the building dates to the 17th century and is under a very strict supervision by the NMO, we cannot really do anything.”
According to At the Lennon Wall survey of AAU students, 13 out of 15 students felt cold in the classrooms at some point during autumn or winter in the past semesters. And 12 out of 15 surveyed would feel sad if the situation would repeat itself in the new building.
One anonymous respondent asked: “Do we pay tuition for the waste of heating energy or for them to be able to buy new windows?”
The heating source in the new building – gas, will be felt in on the ground level via be under-floor ducts. This should improve the problem of being cold, since students are usually sitting down and not moving, where their feet will be warmed up. What is less certain is how much heat will be lost.
The Thurn-Taxis rating, an energy label that states energy-efficiency of the building, ranks it between E and F on a scale where A is the best in saving energy and G is the worst.
It is fairly common that historical buildings have such poor ratings. According to Johanovsky, AAU currenty pays 800,000 Kč per year for heating. The new, larger building will certainly mean a higher rate, said Johanovsky.
Student interest in eco-issues is strong but the newly elected Student Council led by Michal Hron cannot intervene in large-scope plans such as the renovation. But, Hron said, “The environmental initiative of the SC focuses on smaller issues achievable with our limited resources and deployable in shorter time frame.”
Council members Martin Ranninger and Tereza Kickova lead the Environmental Initiative with the support of other students. Their plans such as purchasing recycled paper, offering reusable bottles for purchase and using eco-friendly detergents, should make the school more environmentally friendly.
Recycling bins will move into the new building as well. According to Miroslava Petrakova, they might not be present right from the beginning of the semester but surely will be placed in there at some point.