After almost four years in the ATELIER project, the demonstration site of Republica completed its buildings. Apartments are inhabited and interiors are being finalized by the new residents. Also, commercial space-users are finishing their interiors and the hotel has opened its doors for travellers.
The Republica area consists of six buildings and an underlayer where practical matters come together. It includes three residential buildings, a hotel, café as well as business and office spaces. The 1MW battery is installed in the basement for the storage and exchange of the locally generated energy between the various building parts by the smart grid.
The completion took place more than a year later than originally expected, a delay mainly caused by the pandemic. Fortunately, only small changes were needed in the design of the buildings and installations.
Nevertheless, several hurdles needed to be overcome, such as:
Sales of apartments slowed down significantly in spring 2020 at the start of the pandemic because of economic insecurity. One of the solutions to this problem was the splitting of larger apartments in two smaller ones to facilitate their sales and the sales of a group of apartments to an investor. All of this was needed to secure financing as this was connected to the sales results.
The financing of the hotel was at stake as this branch of economic activity was under a lot of pressure during the pandemic and hotel operators shied away from new ventures. Several solutions were considered, such as changing the hotel to a long-stay residency, but this was in contradiction with the zoning plan. Ultimately in April 2022, a hotel operator was found and financing secured.
In addition, some changes were made in the application of vacuum toilets and kitchen grinders that were part of the PED measures to reduce the amount of energy flow out of the district. The vacuum toilets were abandoned altogether as initial experience with the technology showed teething troubles and issues with noise. This led to the decision not to use them but expand on the use of kitchen grinders to generate biogas in the so-called resource recovery station. This station needs input from various sources, including external sources from ATELIER but as off January 2023, the input is not yet enough to make the resource recovery station operational. Thus, in order to keep the kitchen grinder solution in sight in the future, a temporary solution has been agreed with the involved parties and the EU.
The other aspects of the building complex, such as the green roof, the large amount of solar panels, the smart grid, use of recycled materials and the battery have been implemented as planned. Furthermore, the inhabitants and occupants of Republica will be participants in an energy community. Organisational elements of the community such as governance, financial feasibility, legal constraints etc are topics further analysed in the Innovation Ateliers of the project.
An unforeseen challenge popping up in 2021/2022 was the congestion in the electricity grid affecting the connection capacity that Republica is allowed to use. This limitation is expected to last until 2025. While it does not threaten the completion of the buildings, it will affect the way in which the energy system can be used as specifically charging and discharging speed of the battery will be limited during parts of the day.
Authors: Rudy Rooth, Kim Nathalia, City of Amsterdam
Picture credits: Rudy Rooth