Rehabilitation of the Ex- Deutschewelle Radio Station Xrobb il-Ghagin Malta OUTLOOK No. 33 MEPA (Malta Environment and Planning Authority)
The ex-Deutschewelle radio station site has started to be used as a Centre for Energy Efficient and Sustainable Development together with a Nature Park for scientific study and education. This restoration and rehabilitation project came about after the Faculties of Engineering and of Built Environment within the University of Malta teamed up with Nature Trust. The project consisted of two main tasks – the conservation of the ecological area of the park and the restoration of parts of the existing buildings for educational and administration purposes and for use as a youth hostel. Over the past few years more than 15,000 trees and shrubs have been planted, serving as an excellent observation area for numerous students who are able to learn about the various Maltese habitats and to observe a variety of fauna such as wild rabbit, Maltese wall lizard, hedgehog, chameleon and several others. Existing footpaths were retained so as not to disrupt the land and nature trails with educational information panels were set up. As Prof. Cyril Spiteri Staines and Perit Ruben Paul Borg, both from the University of Malta, explain, the project involved the rehabilitation of the existing buildings rather than their reconstruction. “This posed a larger challenge, since a number of repairs had to be carried out through a sustainable rehabilitation strategy, with the least amount of elements being replaced to maintain the original structures.” This approach led to a reduction in the waste generated whilst other waste that was generated was considered for reuse and recycling. For example the dismantled stone masonry block work was reused in secondary construction or recycled for the production of crushed stone for screed and other uses.
During the implementation of the project, full attention was given to retain the building’s existing energy efficient features used way back in the 1970s, which were complemented with the installation of new energy efficient features. The repaired cantilever structures along the south east and south west facades of the main building provide effective external shading to windows, eliminating direct solar radiation particularly during the summer season. Furthermore, the reconstructed building’s roofs incorporate insulation and the structure also benefits from the shading provided by the photovoltaic and solar water heater roof installations, reducing the roof’s thermal gain. To reduce the transmission of heat, the building’s apertures were all installed with double glazed windows. Additionally, the use of louvers on the external face of the apertures allows for air movement and ventilation. Sun-pipes were installed above a long ‘windowless’ corridor. In general, light coloured finishes were also used on roofs, external walls and surfaces whilst the internal spaces were finished in light, faint colours to reflect the maximum natural light within the building’s interiors. Existing water culverts and a large water reservoir were repaired to capture and store rain water. Furthermore, the building’s waste water is processed through a biological treatment plant and stored as second class water.
All the site’s second class water is utilised for flushing and irrigation purposes. Once the construction and repair phases were complete the building was equipped with photovoltaic panels, wind turbines and solar water heaters. Research on these systems is ongoing to determine their efficiency and to distinguish their potential when applied to projects in the Maltese islands. Today this educational centre serves to demonstrate how Maltase buildings can be designed or retrofitted in order to increase their energy efficiency.