Leica Camera AG Wetzlar

The design idiom of the Leica company head office in Wetzlar is captivatingly unique. It is reminiscent of lenses, objective lenses and rangefinders. Viessmann complements the complex with a sophisticated, innovative energy system.

Leica Camera Wetzlar headquarter building. Photo: © Holger Thurm, Sandra Looke

Design brief

The Leica brand enjoys an excellent reputation among photography enthusiasts. Products from this well established company are noted for their quality, precision and perfection down to the last detail. Founded more than 100 years ago in Wetzlar, the long-standing company moved its production to neighbouring Solms in the mid-1980s. After an economic trough at the beginning of the new millennium, the company turned its fortunes around and returned to its roots in Wetzlar, the "City of Optics", with a new head office and production facilities. In 2007, internationally renowned architectural firms were invited to participate in an ideas competition. The design by Frankfurt architectural firm Gruber + Kleine-Kraneburg Architekten emerged as the winner. The brief was to design a campus consisting of several company buildings. At the centre of the ensemble was to be the newly designed corporate headquarters of Leica Camera AG with adjoining production, development, assembly and laboratory facilities. The innovative complex was intended to reflect the new self-confidence of the Leica brand as well as its traditional company values, and to provide visitors and customers from all over the world with insights into the company.

At first glance, the design idiom of the new building is reminiscent of lenses, objective lenses and rangefinders. This is no coincidence: the architects deliberately adopted forms that call to mind the brand's legendary lenses. From design to implementation, it was also important to the client that the architecture of the new head office reflected the values of the traditional company, namely quality, perfection and precision. In all aspects, the convex-concave curved building structure is as precisely conceived, planned and ultimately executed down to the last detail as one of the company's handcrafted masterpieces.

Innovative energy system from Viessmann for efficient provision of heat, electricity and cooling

While the production of precision mechanical and optical components places the emphasis on utmost precision, the modern production and administration building is thoroughly optimised for efficiency: the entire complex is supplied with heat, electricity and cooling by a state of the art Viessmann energy system.

Vitobloc 200 combined heat and power units © Photo: Holger Thurm, Sandra Looke

Two Vitobloc 200 combined heat and power (CHP) units with an output of 238 kWel/363 kWth and 140 kWel/207 kWth were installed to generate electricity for use in the production and administration departments. The thermal energy generated by the process covers the heat demand in the buildings as well as operation of an absorption refrigeration unit. By using the latter, the heat can also be used to generate cooling energy. The priorities in this process are to supply the cold water required for production and utilise the waste heat generated by the CHP units. Waste heat that cannot currently be used is stored in a heating water buffer cylinder and used later as required.

Should the mains power fail, the CHP units will temporarily take over the entire power supply, thereby safeguarding continued production. A Vitocrossal 200 gas condensing boiler with an output of 503 kW switches on if the CHP units are unable to generate sufficient heat.

All system components are perfectly matched, ensuring particularly efficient and economical operation. As part of this, the CHP units are designed to run for as long as possible. The heat generated in the process is used continuously to heat the building. The integrated condensing technology ensures a high overall efficiency of up to 95 percent and, compared to separate electricity and heat generation, the CHP units achieve primary energy savings of up to 30 percent. 

A large Viessmann brine/water heat pump with a cooling capacity of 348 kW was installed to cool the production facilities. It draws the energy it needs from an array of 80 geothermal probes sunk 120 metres into the ground below the car park. Two air cooled refrigeration units cover peak loads at times of high cooling demand. When demand is high, the heat pump is also available as a chiller to supplement the absorption refrigeration unit. The cold water generated in this way is then additionally stored in an open sprinkler tank for cooling the production facilities. 

The heating and cooling energy are distributed over a large area via ceilings, walls and floors. The inert storage mass of the reinforced concrete is used for concrete component activation. Viessmann manufactures large heat pumps with total outputs of up to 2000 kW that are specially tailored to the requirements of commercial and industrial operations.

Intelligent system control for particularly efficient operation

The intelligent Viessmann MMM 300 system control unit ensures that the most efficient combination of heat generators and refrigeration units is used at all times. The perfect combination of all components makes the system particularly efficient and thus economical in operation. Energy consumption surpasses the requirements of the EnEV 2009 by more than 54 percent. For this, the Leica company head office was awarded the European Union's Green Building Certificate.

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