BUDAPEST (HU) - In March 2009, Mérték Építészeti Stúdió won the competition for the redevelopment of a former waterworks (Hungarian Water Treatment Co) on the northern outskirts of Budapest. The site, right below the new Megyeri Bridge over the Danube, is currently occupied by a lot of empty industrial heritage, much of it with listed status. The competition brief required designers to open this closed area up to the city and in the process reuse as many of the existing buildings as possible.
On its own initiative, Mérték suggested turning the redevelopment into a major ecological and sustainable pilot project, something that has never before been attempted on this scale in Central Europe. Taking the area's peripheral location vis à vis the Hungarian capital as their starting point, the architects propose reinforcing its autonomous character. The new live/work district will be entirely self-supporting in terms of energy production. As the guiding principle for the plan, the architects used the One Planet Principles developed by sustainability experts BioRegional UK. The district will generate energy by means of wind turbines, photovoltaic solar panels, a geothermal heat pump and even water turbines in the Danube. The studio also suggests making this the first location in Hungary with its own high-pressure biomass- and biogas-oven and microalgae photo-bioreactor. The reactor would be placed on the south side of the office buildings where it would take full advantage of the sunlight to produce biodiesel from algae.
Rainwater will be harvested and used in a grey water system and for watering the gardens. The architects go so far as to suggest that part of the food consumed in the district should be grown on site. All in all a very ambitious plan that appears to employ every available means. Considerable persuasive powers and a lot of money will be needed to achieve these lofty aims. But even if in the end only some of the proposals are implemented, it will still be one of the most remarkable ecological pilot projects in Central Europe. (Emiel Lamers)